Anshu is just 19. She was diagnosed with leprosy about two years ago – but it wasn’t nearly soon enough.
When we met her at Anandaban Hospital, Nepal, she was sat in a wheelchair – essential for mobility as leprosy has left her with two drop feet, two clawed hands and damaged nerves on her face which have affected the appearance of her mouth and eyes.
She has been fortunate enough to have operations to attempt to improve her mobility and address the problems with her eyes. When we met her she had a long road of physiotherapy and rehabilitation ahead, and was still unable to walk.
Anshu remembers when she first started to develop symptoms of leprosy – her hands swelled up and she felt weak, constantly in pain. She had been married at just 14 years old – and as her symptoms intensified, she had other concerns too – she was pregnant with her second child.
After months of suffering, Anshu’s father borrowed the money to travel with her to hospital – where she was diagnosed with leprosy.
Anshu was devastated. She saw severely disabled people at the hospital and was worried for her future. Returning to her her village, she feared that neighbours would turn against her.
Sadly, her fears were realised. Visible disabilities had already started to affect her feet and hands, and stigma in the community meant that people began to tell her husband that he should leave and find another wife.
Unfortunately, Anshu’s husband abandoned her and their children and has now remarried. Her former in-laws have rejected her and when we spoke to her, Anshu felt as if she will never have a chance of marrying again because of her disabilities. When we asked her what she was most looking forward to about being able to go home from hospital after months of treatment, she told us that she couldn’t wait to see her two young boys.
It’s always a worry for families when parents develop leprosy, as people they are constantly in close contact with – such as their children – then have a greater chance of contracting it.
With your help, we can continue to make sure that families get the medical attention they need to diagnose children with leprosy as early as possible – saving youngsters like Anshu’s sons from becoming irreversibly disabled like their mother, and subject to the sort of stigma she has had to deal with.
To help more people live a life free from leprosy, give a gift today.
Share Anshu’s story and spread the word that leprosy still destroys lives today, but that we have hope for the future.
Images and interview: Tom Bradley