Mithu’s journey to a new life

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Mithu in 2013, as an inpatient at Anandaban Hospital, where she was treated for leprosy reaction.

When we met Mithu in 2013, it was four years since she had been diagnosed with leprosy and her journey to Anandaban Hospital had been a long and painful one.

Growing up in a very poor family in a remote area of Nepal, Mithu started work – as a cleaner in a hotel – at the age of 13. She had been working there for two years when she started to develop loss of feeling and swelling in her hands, which soon made her job difficult. The local health centre was not able to offer her any advice. Scared and not knowing who to turn to, Mithu was listening to the radio one day when she heard about a clinic in Surkhet District – and she decided to make the journey there in the hope of finding out what was wrong.

Travelling alone, it took Mithu three days to reach the clinic – two days of walking and a day’s bus journey. She didn’t tell her parents where she was going or what she thought was wrong with her. Then her worst fears were confirmed. Mithu was given multidrug therapy and sent away. She didn’t want to tell her parents about her leprosy, but in the end, she felt forced to. The signs of the disease had become visible – her nose had partially collapsed.

Because she had leprosy, Mithu was asked to leave her job at the hotel and had to return to her village. Once her neighbours found out about it, they began to stigmatise her.

“When I used the common tap or wash area, people would clean it before anyone else would use it. Sometimes I would not go out – I just stayed at home and cried.”

Mithu’s sister-in-law did not even want her in the family home and refused to let her touch her young son.

“Either Mithu leaves this house or I do. I will go home to my parents,” she told the family.

Mithu loved her nephew very much and was hurt that she couldn’t look after him any more. But she would not leave home and in the end, her sister-in-law made the decision to leave instead, only returning when Mithu became an inpatient at Anandaban. She was showing signs of leprosy reaction and was referred there for treatment in 2013.

At Anandaban, Mithu was diagnosed with severe leprosy reaction, which can cause intense pain, skin nodules, fever and nerve damage. It took more than a year to successfully treat the reaction and Mithu was scared about what the future could hold for her.

“At Anandaban I have made friends and have people to talk to. At home I will be alone,” she said. “While I have been away my sister has also been diagnosed with leprosy. I have cried a lot because I think it is my fault and that everyone will blame me. How much blame will I face at home when I go back? I don’t know what I will do.”

Mithu, who had never been to school, was learning to read and attending other education classes at Anandaban. She wasn’t sure what her future held but was reluctant to go back to her village due to the stigma she had faced, even though she missed her family.

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Mithu at Anandaban in 2016, where she now lives and works after finishing treatment.

Recently, we were thrilled to meet Mithu again and hear about the amazing transformation in her life since she first came to Anandaban. Now 22 and completely well, Mithu has had reconstructive surgery on her nose. She’s still living at the hospital, but this time as an employee, with her own home next to the self-care unit where patients learn to look after their leprosy-affected hands and feet.

“I clean, cut the grass, look after the animals and the garden,” she said. “I also help the patients with their self-care.”

Mithu shares her life at Anandaban with another person who has helped her find love and acceptance there – her husband. He is also affected by leprosy and has stayed on at the hospital following treatment to work at the self-care unit. They’ve been married for a year and Mithu smiled widely as she told us about their life together.

It’s clear that her time at the hospital has not only helped Mithu heal physically and emotionally, but has also given her a new purpose in life, new friends and much happiness. It’s what makes Anandaban Hospital such a special place – and why people like Mithu appreciate your support and prayers for The Leprosy Mission’s work in Nepal so much.

Find out more about the projects you support in Nepal.

The Nepal earthquake: one year on

Khrishna

April 25 will be a difficult day for the people of Nepal – the first anniversary of the earthquake that claimed more than 9,000 lives and left many more people injured, homeless and without livelihoods.

For people with leprosy, who are often living with the additional challenges of disability and extreme poverty, the earthquake was a particularly heavy blow. But thanks to your generosity and the amazing response to our emergency appeal, as well as this year’s Rebuild Nepal appeal, they now have hope for the future.

In the months following the earthquake, your gifts provided funds and materials to build temporary shelters – a huge relief for those who were forced to live under tarpaulin or even in the open air after losing their homes. You also helped provide emergency treatment at Anandaban Hospital that saved lives and helped people on their road to recovery with surgery, physiotherapy and counselling.

And now, thanks to your ongoing care and compassion, people like Krishna, pictured above with his two sons in front of the ruins of their home, will be able to start moving in to newly built homes after months of living in cold, cramped shelters.

“It would have been impossible for me in this life to build another house for my family,” Krishna said. “I am so grateful to everyone who has helped. I will never forget the care that I got from the staff at The Leprosy Mission. My family will once again have a roof over their heads.”

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A typical temporary shelter in Nepal

Your help over the past year has meant so much to so many people. Here are just a few of their stories.

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Dhurba

Dhurba’s house collapsed during the earthquake – and his wheelchair was crushed by the rubble. After receiving a grant to help he and his family purchase materials to build a temporary shelter, Dhurba was also given a brand new wheelchair.

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Dev (right)

Dev lost her home and only source of income in the earthquake – the goats that were her livelihood were killed by falling buildings. She desperately need a fresh start – she is disabled by leprosy and also primary carer for her husband, who is housebound. Thanks to a grant of 15,000 rupees, she has bought another goat and built a temporary shelter.

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Ganesh, Ganga and their family

Ganesh and his wife Ganga have five children. Their whole village was destroyed in the earthquake. Ganesh was out working in the fields at the time and rushed home, thankfully finding that the rest of the family had been outside when the earthquake hit and were unharmed.

Ganesh has been receiving help from The Leprosy Mission from a long time – ever since he was first diagnosed with the disease at the age of ten. He  needs to wear special footwear and is supplied with shoes by Anandaban Hospital, making sure that his feet are protected from further injury. The family received a grant to build a temporary shelter last year. Now, thanks to your generosity, they will be able to look forward to a new permanent home.

You can still make a difference to people affected by the 2015 earthquakes with a gift to our Rebuild Nepal appeal. Your gifts really are helping to transform lives and bring new hope to Nepal.

Stories from Nepal: Pavitra

The final installment of Partnership Manager Louise Timmins’s blogs from Nepal, where she visited Anandaban Hospital last month, meeting some of the people whose lives have been devastated by the earthquakes. Towards the end of her visit she met Pavitra, who benefited from a new house thanks to The Leprosy Mission last year.

Pavitra at the Self Care Unit at Anandaban Hospital.
Pavitra at the Self Care Unit at Anandaban Hospital.

The Self Care Unit at Anandaban Hospital is where patients affected by leprosy learn how to soak hands and feet which have lost feeling because of disease, remove dead skin and moisturise with oil. This is so important because soaked, supple skin is less likely to crack and injure. Injuries can turn in to horrendous ulcers which take months to heal. Sadly in some cases, the ulcers become so infected that amputation is the only option.

As I walked down the 360 steps from the hospital to the Self Care Unit, I could see eight or nine patients sitting and chatting together. It is fantastic that they can share experiences and encourage one another here. Only someone who has experienced leprosy first hand can really understand the horrors of the disease.

Pavitra looks on as Self Care Unit manager Kassi tends to her feet.
Pavitra looks on as Self Care Unit manager Kassi tends to her feet.

Pavitra had just soaked her feet and was having the dead skin removed by Kassi, who is also affected by leprosy and manages the Self Care Unit. We started chatting and Pavitra told me her story:

“I was sixteen when I first noticed I was losing feeling in my hands,” she said. “It was very strange and I didn’t understand what was happening. I was scared so I just ignored it and tried to hide what was happening from my family and friends.

“Luckily my parents found a husband for me and we got married. I kept the secret of my illness from my husband, but when we had a son a year later, I couldn’t hide it anymore. By this point my hands were almost useless; my fingers wouldn’t straighten and I didn’t feel it when my son grasped them. I kept burning myself when preparing meals. It was terrible. I felt so sad all the time.

“My husband was so angry – he realised I had leprosy. He threw me and our son out of the house. I was disgraced – I am from a low caste, and with leprosy too I knew I didn’t have much of a future to look forward to.

“Thankfully my mother took us in. I’m an only child and she was so good to me.

“I now live with my son and his family – I have five grandchildren so it’s a busy household. My son also ran a tailoring business from the house until recently.”

Despite the support of her family, Pavitra has faced new challenges following the earthquake at the end of April.

“When the earthquake came we lost everything,” she told me. “Thankfully no-one apart from my daughter-in-law was inside the house – she jumped out of the upstairs window to safety. Our home is gone and our income from my son’s business has gone. We are desperate.

“I feel very sad about losing my home; it was only built by The Leprosy Mission last year. I was so excited when we moved in. I’d never had a toilet in 57 years – it was wonderful! Now I wonder what will happen to us.

“We’re living in a tent; it’s really hard to manage in such a small space, especially when it’s raining.

“I am thankful for The Leprosy Mission; they treat me like family when I am here. It’s almost like coming home. I hope that God will provide me with a house for my family again. I don’t know how we will manage otherwise.”

The Leprosy Mission Nepal is currently looking at plans to start rebuilding homes destroyed by the earthquake early next year. We value your prayers as we do so and hope we will be able to partner with other organisations in Nepal to transform the desperate situations of people like Pavitra.