Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1: 17b NLT
Leprosy is a cruel disease; it not only robs people of their health, but also means that they are frequently denied their most basic entitlements. Oft en, they don’t even have a voice in their local communities. At The Leprosy Mission, we don’t think that’s acceptable, so a large part of our work focuses on justice and dignity.
Rekah, a patient at Naini hospital in India, is just one of many people who have been rejected and stigmatised because of leprosy. This is her story told in her own words, translated by the hospital’s counsellor, Neelmani.
‘My village is more than 100km from here, so my brother brought me. This is my third admission. Before visiting here my brother took me to a private doctor who said, ‘this is leprosy and you must take her to Naini hospital’. Before that I had visited other private doctors in different places. Nobody told me about my disease. I spent a lot of time, energy and money trying to fi nd out what it was.
‘Previously I worked in the fields. That made my feet worse. I have anaesthetic hands and feet. If I get a burn I don’t realise it.
‘I’ve got two sons and one daughter. The elder son is 14, the next is 12 and my daughter is 10. Nobody is there to look after them. There are a few relatives but they don’t give any care to them, so they look aft er themselves.’ Neelmani explains that Rekah has a husband but he is neglectful of his family and plays no supporting role. ‘I feel that all my life I have taken care of my husband and now I’ve got leprosy he’s not taken care of me. How long will my brother and his family support me? For my treatment they have to spend lots of money, on travelling and other costs, it’s a heavy burden for them to bear all the time.
‘Initially I visited Naini on an outpatient basis and was taking MDT [multidrug therapy, the cure for leprosy]. Aft er a few months of treatment I developed an ulcer and was admitted. One day at home, while I was sleeping, a cat or a rat had bitten my anaesthetic foot. It was bleeding and I was very disturbed and thought ‘I will die. Now I won’t cause any problems to anyone’, so didn’t call my brother. Then after a while it became worse so I called him and he brought me here. He took responsibility for me and consoled me. He said, “Let it be however it is in your family with your husband and
how he is treating you, but I’ll look aft er you, even though it is very difficult”.
‘I’ve had some stigma from the community because of leprosy. I can’t meet with the people around me. Within the family and community they use bad words about me. In the family some relatives say “she is smelly, take her to the leprosy hospital”. Before the leprosy, everyone was normal to me. I was a good wife and daughter-in-law, everyone respected me.’ At this point Rekah became too distressed to continue.
Rekah has found medical and emotional support at Naini hospital; without it, she would still be searching for the help she so desperately needs. If you are able to support our work at Naini, you will help to give leprosy-affected people back their voice, dignity and purpose. Please consider a gift today – whatever you can afford will be a true blessing.
Head of Fundraising & Communications
P.S. Restoring health and purpose to people with leprosy can begin with one simple gift – please, consider making a donation today.
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