Stories from Nepal: Mahendra

Partnership Manager Louise Timmins blogs from Nepal, where she has been visiting Anandaban Hospital and meeting some of the people whose lives have been devastated by the earthquakes.

10 July 2015

Today is a very special day for me. It’s exactly 4 years ago that I first met my beautiful daughter Marika at a small orphanage near Kathmandu! Being here on this anniversary is lovely.

I really wanted to see how all the children there were managing after the earthquake so Shovakhar and I drove the short distance through the city and out in to the countryside to the orphanage. As we passed the women in brightly coloured saris bent over picking rice in the paddy fields, all the memories came back of this exciting journey 4 years ago.

The children were just coming back from school as I arrived. Amazingly I could recognise many of the little faces – they were all about 16 months old when I was last here, the same age as Marika. They were all so happy to see a visitor ‘Aunty, Aunty!’ they shouted, and it was a fight to see how many children could fit on my lap!

The earthquake had left huge cracks in the building, so the children are sleeping in temporary shelters made from tin sheets. It’s really hot inside and very uncomfortable. I kept thinking how hard it would be to move around a shelter in this heat if you had leprosy.

A child at Anandaban Hospital.
A child at Anandaban Hospital.

I have a real heart for orphans and children in need. In Nepal, a high number of children contract leprosy. The Leprosy Mission Nepal is doing an amazing job finding and treating these children so that they don’t develop disability and can go on to lead a normal life.

Sometimes though, children in remote regions don’t get the medicine they need in time to stop terrible disability caused by leprosy.

Mahendra at Anandaban Hospital
Mahendra at Anandaban Hospital

Mahendra is 16 years old and is one such young person. He has one leg, serious ulceration and badly deformed hands. He cannot walk and uses a wheelchair to move around in the hospital ward at Anandaban. He sat with me and shared his story:

“When I was 6 I saw white patches on my arms. I poked them but I couldn’t feel it; it was very strange to me. I didn’t understand what was happening.  I ignored it for a couple of years, but when I couldn’t straighten my fingers, my family took to a doctor and he said I had leprosy. I didn’t take any medicine, I don’t know why now.

“Slowly I lost all feeling in my hands, and my fingers started to bend further and further in to my palms- I couldn’t straighten them at all. I couldn’t hold a pen, or catch a ball and it was very hard to find friends. My feet were the same, I couldn’t feel a thing. I kept cutting them and then the wound would turn in to a big ulcer.

“Finally I came to Anandaban and have taken medicine to cure me for the last two years. I can’t get my fingers back though; it’s too late for that. My foot ulcers got so bad that I had my left leg amputated 3 months ago. I’ve been here for 14 weeks now.

“My family never come to visit me, that makes me sad. I really miss them. When I am better I would like to open a small shop. That would make my family proud.

“I am so happy that I came to this hospital. Everyone is so kind and I have been treated well.”

Mahendra is going to be measured for a prosthetic limb next week. They take six weeks to make and by the time it is ready, his wound will have healed. It’s going to take a long time and lots of physiotherapy before Mahendra will be able to walk again.

In the meantime, a teacher comes to the hospital twice a week to help Mahendra with his studies. He’s also made plenty of friends on the ward who sit and play games with him.

Mahendra has a huge smile and I’m convinced he has the willpower to get out of his wheelchair and open his shop.

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