Sister Jessy, who works at the St. Thomas Home for the Aged in Chennai, talks about what a life of service means to her
At first, Sister Jessy, 59, sounds stern: “No photos, go-go, did you get permission?” I withdrew to the room where the Billion Hearts Beating health camp was on and watched the doctors take the blood pressure of seniors at the St. Thomas Home for the Aged. Outside, workers at the senior care home were clearing out the branches of trees that had fallen during the November 2021 cyclone.
This is when Sister Jessy opened up about the flooding, the difficulty they had in clearing the water out of the bathrooms on the ground floor. “Many residents (of the 66) contracted diabetes and malaria,” she says of the situation.
She has worked here for 9 years, and the Billion Hearts Beating Foundation has been supplying medicines “on time” as she emphasizes, since 2016. “I told the father (in-charge) that before Apollo stepped up to help our home, the death rate was extremely high, with about 20 people dying each year due to diabetes and cardiac problems, and that once Apollo came to support our home, the death rate steadily fell.”
Sister Jessy is from Kerala. She earned a master’s degree in English and a bachelor’s degree in education. She was motivated to join the order by her family and is presently a congregational general counsellor. She took a break from teaching after undergoing a spine surgery in 2003. “I enjoy teaching a lot. My spine surgery prevented me from teaching, but not from fulfilling my purpose of serving people.” She feels her teaching experience taught her patience and perseverance, and brought out her caring, nurturing skills. “I defeated my fear when I decided to work again despite my body condition after the surgery,” she adds.
After working with the elderly for 18 years, she says thoughtfully that many compare seniors with children, but she disagrees. Years of experiences, some that erode, some that uplift, shape adults, and this is reflected in behaviour. “When they come here, they don’t tell us they have spouses or children,” she says, adding she understands why. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to acknowledge a breakdown in a relationship, sometimes it’s shame that a loved one has abandoned them.
“I understand the agony they feel,” says Sister Jessy, who looks after all the needs of the residents, from food and medicines to daily needs and clothing. “I’ve had a lot of medical complications in my life too.” But each time she is faced with a difficult situation, she thinks of her parents and grandparents.
Her aim of serving: “People should never feel alone.”
The vision of the Billion Hearts Beating Foundation is to touch a billion lives through access to free preventive healthcare.