Jutlen’s transformation

Some of the postcards you sent to Jutlen last summer
Some of the postcards you sent to Jutlen last summer

Helen Walton reflects on a very special reunion.

Do you remember Jutlen? Last summer, our appeal focused on Premananda Hospital in Kolkata, India, sharing his story. Jutlen was a 16-year-old boy alone in hospital, fearful for his future, in need of surgery on his hands and feet and deeply upset by the stigma he had suffered because of leprosy.

I, too, remember the day I met Jutlen, because it changed my life forever.

Jutlen, on the day I met him at Premananda Hospital in Kolkata.
Jutlen, on the day I met him at Premananda Hospital in Kolkata.

As I sat on Jutlen’s hospital bed, looking at the harrowed expression on his face as he told me his story, I saw such pain and hopelessness that it has haunted my heart ever since. I wept for this young man, for the injustice he has suffered and for his pain.

His parents had died and his best friend had refused to have anything to do with him once Jutlen told him he had leprosy. Although he was cured of the disease, he was alone, disabled and scared for his future. I left his bedside that day full of sadness for him and for his situation.

As part of last summer’s appeal, we asked you to send Jutlen and others like him your prayers and messages of support. It was wonderful to see the outpouring of love for this young man. Your good wishes for his future meant so much.

Returning to Kolkata recently, with a couple of hours to spare before my onward flight, I returned to Premananda Hospital. I was overwhelmed with curiosity as to Jutlen’s whereabouts. Where was he? How was he? As I was escorted to the men’s ward, I saw him. One of his legs was in plaster, indicating that he had recently had an operation – the reconstructive surgery he so badly needed to help him walk properly again.

Jutlen was completely transformed
Jutlen was completely transformed

What I hadn’t expected was the complete transformation that I saw. It wasn’t just the physical transformation – Jutlen’s smile was infectious; he was animated and excited to see me. Slowly he got off his bed, then knelt and touched my feet and knees, a gesture of thanks and gratitude.

Through the loving care he has received, all thanks to you, Jutlen has found hope again. In just a few short months his life has been turned around. He is healing from the effects of the rejection he felt and was looking forward to returning to education on leaving hospital.

It made my day to be able to spend time with Jutlen.
It made my day to be able to spend time with Jutlen.

When you supported Jutlen and others like him at Premananda Hospital, you helped turn a young man’s life around. Because of your kindness, Jutlen has found new hope. I’m so thankful that I got the chance to meet him again and see this for myself – and I couldn’t wait to share the news. As he rebuilds his life, please continue to remember Jutlen – as well as the other patients and staff at Premananda Hospital in your prayers.

With use of her hand restored, Kyrah has big dreams for the future.

kyrah
14-year-old Kyrah has had reconstructive surgery at Anandaban Hospital

Trusts Relationship Officer Vicki Davison recently made her first visit overseas to see how you’re making a difference to people in Nepal. One of the patients she met at Anandaban Hospital was Kyrah.

My first time visiting Anandaban Hospital has been an incredible experience – both eye-opening and encouraging. I’ve been working at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales for six months now and have heard many inspiring stories of people who have been treated at Anandaban Hospital. I have also heard many reports about the staff at the hospital – their skill, expertise and genuine care and compassion for their patients.

As I climbed the 365 steps – in close to 30 degree heat and 90% humidity – from the centre where I was staying to the hospital building itself, I thought about the stories I’d been told and felt excited to visit such an amazing place. But I had no idea how touched I would be by this ‘home from home’ for patients and the incredible people who work there.

While visiting one of the wards, I met a girl called Kyrah. She stood out to me straight away. Aged 14, she is a small girl with a big, beaming smile and compassion for others that radiates from her and shows itself in everything she does.

Sat on a balcony that overlooks the lush, green hills that characterise Nepal, I chatted to Kyrah while she played with two younger children and decorated a colouring book.

It quickly became clear that Kyrah’s time at Anandaban has truly changed her life; not only has she found healing and restoration, she has also discovered new dreams for her future.

kyrah and binsa
Kyrah with her father, Binsa

Kyrah lives with her mother and father, Binsa, who is a farmer. Binsa was diagnosed with leprosy 14 years ago and was given multi-drug therapy for 2 years to cure him, but the treatment came too late. Leprosy had already damaged the nerves to his left hand and he lost all feeling in it. His hand became clawed as his fingers and thumb bent back and pointed towards his palms. When his family found out he had been diagnosed with leprosy, his sister-in-law refused to eat in the same room as him – she was scared she would catch it.

Sadly, Kyrah also developed leprosy; she was diagnosed six years ago when she was eight years old. Just like her father, leprosy caused Kyrah’s right hand to lose feeling and become clawed.

Both Binsa and Kyrah have had tendon transfer operations at Anandaban, just days apart. Binsa can now straighten his fingers and grip objects with his whole hand again – his work as a farmer will be so much easier and safer now.

The mobility in Kyrah’s thumb has been restored and, when she has healed, she will have a second operation that should give her back the movement in her fingers.  Before the operation, Kyrah struggled to do everyday tasks and couldn’t pick up objects. Now she can hold a pen and write – imagine how much better her hand will be when she’s had the second operation.

Kyrah’s experience at Anandaban has given her so much more than the joy of being able to use her hand again – it has given her new aspirations for her future. When I asked her whether she has plans for after school her face lit up, excited to tell me.

She explained how she has loved her time at the hospital so much that she now wants to become a social worker so she can help leprosy-affected people. From spending just a few minutes with her, I was sure this would be the perfect choice for Kyrah. The care and kindness she shows the other patients warms everyone around her, and I know she will bring this same joy to the people she works with in the future.

The day I met Kyrah was her last on the ward – she was due to be discharged for a few weeks before returning for her final operation. When she told me this her smile faded – she didn’t want to leave Anandaban. She said that she will really miss the staff and she feels she has found a home here. As sad as this is for Kyrah, I’m excited for her, for her next steps. Soon, she will have completed her treatment and will continue with school. She is applying for a scholarship from Anandaban to support her with her education.

One day, I’m convinced that she will be a brilliant social worker and an inspiration and encouragement to the leprosy-affected people she helps.