Case study 3: Leprosy
“My wife has been the strongest pillar in my life for over 25 years and we have 4 children, 3 sons and a daughter. All the children go to school. I know the importance of education and want all my children to be educated,” says L Meena sitting in front of his thatched house. L is a frail man in his late forties, who has suffered a lot in the past and only now seems to be coming to terms with his revived life!
L’s house is in a remote village, situated about 600 metres on a kuttcha bylane off the main road. It is a small kuttcha house with tiled roofing and mud walls, without electricity or toilet. In the portico, under the cowshed, stands an old frail cow, way past her productive years, near a pile of firewood, which is the family’s prized possession! L was only 15 years old, when he decided to go to Ahmedabad to work as a tile mason. He started with helping the main mason and soon became an expert in fixing tiles on bathroom and kitchen walls. Having learnt all the skills, he soon started working independently and earning a decent living. At the age of twenty, having saved a good amount of money, L decided to come back to his village. He got married and spent his savings on buying silver jewellery for her, knowing that it was a long term investment and this jewellery could help them in days of need. Over the years, they had a peaceful life and welcomed three children in their lives.
It was nearly after nine years of their marriage that tragedy struck them. L, while making a shed for his cattle, fell on thorny bushes, injuring his forearms & legs. He also injured his forehead, for which he had four sutures done.
“Since that day I feel as if needles are being pierced through my body,” says L. He did not feel much pain at the time of the injury but some of his wounds became chronic and started oozing pus. His face also started getting contorted, so much so that people in the village thought he had become mad or was taken over by evil spirits. They avoided coming in contact with him or even coming close to his house, isolating his family.
L’s wife decided to get her husband treated and took him to a private hospital at Sardari for treatment. She spent over Rs. 10,000 for the treatment and medicines, but L’s condition did not improve. Seeing no improvement in her husband’s situation, L’s wife resorted to black magic and offered goats to the local deity four times, spending about Rs. 3000 to Rs. 4000 each time. The community which had isolated them due to L’s condition came for the feast that was given after the ritual, increasing the expenses. But none of this yielded any results and L’s condition remained the same. The jewellery that was bought for their marriage was partly sold and mortgaged for his treatment. They ended up spending about one lakh thirty thousand rupees on his treatment, including the money spent on black magic, feasting, drinking and offerings to the priest. L’s says that she told her husband, “I don’t need any jewellery, all I need is you to be fully cured.”
“The family was identified during the outreach sessions carried out by the AMRIT team and they were informed about the clinic and the services it offered. When L’s wife heard about AMRIT clinic, she did not show much enthusiasm. However, with continuous follow-ups and persuasion by Clinic staff and realizing that the clinic charges only Rs. 50 per week for all the medicines and tests, she agreed to give it a try. L was brought to the Clinic and the tests revealed that he had Leprosy,” says Ram Lal, the Senior Health Worker at AMRIT Clinic in Manpur.
After being diagnosed with Leprosy, L was referred to the department of Dermatology at Udaipur Medical College, with whom AMRIT Clinic had tie-ups. He was admitted for two days and later discharged with medicines for a month. He was advised to visit the hospital regularly; the treatment regime was long and it would take a year for him to recover fully, he was told. L visits the hospital monthly and the AMRIT Clinic staff helps him collect his medicines from the public hospital.
“L is much better now as compared to his condition when he was first brought to AMRIT Clinic. His wounds were fresh and oozed pus and we had to remove his shirt forcibly as it had gotten stuck to the wounds. Fortunately, his condition is much improved and his wounds have started healing. L’s treatment and continuous recovery has also made others in the village realize that this disease can be cured, unlike what they had thought earlier. L’s family is no more ostracized in the village and now people from the village come to their house, eat and drink with them, and they are also invited to functions at other houses. It feels good that they have once again become very much a part of their society now,” says Ram Lal.
L’s 3 sons go to the nearby Government School and they are all studying well. They are very much part of the village boys’ group and are included in all the activities the village boys indulge in.
“The (improved) situation today is only because of AMRIT Clinic. Earlier nobody told us what the disease was and all the hospitals and doctors were interested in making us spend more and more money. It was only after coming to AMRIT Clinic, that we were told about his condition properly and the course of treatment. The Clinic staff explained everything to us properly and took us in confidence before starting the treatment. They provided all sorts of support including financial and medical support. All our lives we will be obliged to AMRIT Clinic. We are surviving today only because of them,” say L’s gratified wife with a bright smile on her face.