Leprosy is a cruel disease; it robs people of their health and they are frequently denied the most basic entitlements. Often, 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 was rejected and stigmatised because of leprosy. She told her story to Neelmani, Naini hospital’s counsellor.
‘My village is more than 100km from here, so my brother brought me. Before visiting here he took me to a private doctor who said, ‘this is leprosy and you must take her to Naini hospital’. I spent a lot of time, energy and money trying to find out what my disease 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.
Neelmani explains that Rekah has a husband and children, but he is neglectful of his family and plays no supporting role.
‘I was taking MDT [multidrug therapy, the cure for leprosy]. After a few months 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. It became worse so I called him to bring me here. He took responsibility for me and consoled me. He said, “I’ll look after you, even though it is very difficult”.
‘I’ve had some stigma from the community because of leprosy. The family and community use bad words about me. 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 found medical and emotional support at Naini hospital; without it, she would still be searching for the help she so desperately needs. If you can support our work at Naini, you will help to give leprosy-affected people back their voice, dignity and purpose.