‘I was treated like a dog’
Amar experienced terrible rejection because of leprosy. But one of TLM’s hospitals in India is helping him move forward.
Amar was enjoying his new life in Delhi. He’d moved there from rural Muzaffarpur, a town in the North East of India. Delhi was exciting and full of possibilities. He had a good job doing the accounts for his brother-in-law’s firm and had plenty of friends to hang out with. At 22, he was happy and carefree.
One day, while exercising, a friend noticed a strange mark on his back. When Amar touched the mark, he realised he had no feeling there. He was very worried; he already knew a little about the symptoms of leprosy. So he went to the local hospital for a check up. There, the doctor confirmed he had leprosy.
From this point on, Amar’s life changed dramatically. He was given treatment to cure the leprosy. But after taking the medication for six months he began to suffer from leprosy reaction – this is when the body reacts against the dead bacteria cells that are being killed off by the drugs. It can be extremely painful. Amar’s hands, feet and face swelled up.
When his brother-in-law and sister, who he lived with, found out that he had leprosy, Amar says they began to treat him ‘like a dog’. His brother-in-law was concerned that his children might be at risk of catching leprosy from Amar.
Amar felt that he had no other option but to leave. And that meant he lost his job too. He returned to Muzaffarpur feeling very depressed.
‘I was not able to accept how I could have leprosy,’ he says, ‘because none of my family members have this.’
Back in Muzaffarpur he was pleased to discover that his childhood friends accepted him. They were still happy for him to practice karate with them.
Unbelievably, his brother-in-law did not feel that Amar leaving Delhi was enough. He paid men to come to Muzaffarpur and find him. ‘I was surrounded by some guys and they started to beat me,’ Amar explains. ‘The friends that I was practicing karate with all came over and they had a fight. I was very scared.’
But this wasn’t the last of his problems. The disease began to cause disfigurement in his hand. ‘I was having difficulty writing and having food,’ he says. ‘I stopped going to friends’ houses because I was not able to eat with my right hand. Sometimes I had quarrels also,’ he continues. ‘People used to comment; “What’s wrong with your hand, why is it not getting better?” ’
Thankfully, Amar has been able to receive treatment at The Leprosy Mission’s Kolkata Hospital in West Bengal. Slowly his life is beginning to improve. He has had reconstructive surgery to correct the disfigurement in his hand. Amar is recovering in hospital, and his depression is beginning to lift.
Although he can’t contemplate returning home until his hand is better.
Once his hand is fully functional, people will no longer notice anything different about Amar. The comments and discrimination he has experienced because of his physical appearance should stop. This is one of the important benefits of reconstructive surgery for leprosy patients – it really does transform their lives. Thanks to the skill of TLM’s surgeons, and the care of other hospital staff, patients have the hope of being able to live a purposeful life once again.
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