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Encounters With Leprosy Patients
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ENCOUNTERS WITH LEPROSY PATIENTS
I had my first time knowledge about Leprosy as a disease when I was too young; a kid of about 4 or 5 years of age. Then a lady, afflicted with leprosy was residing in a nearby village. She came to our village begging and started eating seeds of pea from a field of pea and lentil located at the back of our house. I still have a fresh memory of the incident (even after 60 years) when my paternal uncle had reprimanded her for coming into village and made her to leave. After that I did not get a chance to see her anywhere, but as she belonged to the same village as of my mother, I came to know that she had been sent to a Leprotic Center located in Srinagar or Rishikesh(cities of Uttarakhand state in India). Then she had two sons which were of my age, they got reared under the guardianship of their father and were employed.
As I grew up, I was studying in a middle school. I came to know about a man diseased with Leprosy through my classmates, who used to roam at Rudraprayag bus stop. When I was a student of Inter College at Srinagar, I saw him from close quarters on reaching Rudraprayag. I saw thumb of his left hand covered with bandage, probably it was rotting. Otherwise, he was an able bodied middle-aged man who used to sit under a Banyan tree most of the time which was located near the bus stop. He used to interact a lot with people.
When I was a student of Degree College in Srinagar, I got a chance to participate in an N.C.C. Camp (a socio-military organization in India where students get a chance to lead a military life) in Rishikesh. During my stint there, I saw a group of leprotic patients lined along the Rishikeshs Lakshman Jhula bridge. The sight of their disfigured bodies could torment mind-soul of any sensitive person. The time passed by
Meanwhile, two of my younger brothers joined me and started studying. We were living in a rented accommodation in Srinagar. One day, an acquaintance of my father and his mother visited us and stayed for a night. I along with my brothers prepared meal and all of us dined together. After having the meal, we washed the utensils. On getting an opportunity, my father scolded me as the lady had returned us a chapatti, which we ate. My father had an objection to this as she had leprotic eruptions on her hands. She was to be admitted in a leprotic hospital at Srinagar. Due to this reason, my father had warned us. Anyhow she was admitted to the hospital the next day. The thought of meeting her again did not flash in my mind. After many years upon enquiring, I discovered that she had died. Till the time she was alive, she was visited by her son in the hospital time and again.
After doing my B.Sc., I started teaching in a school at Jaipur. I also got enrolled in a B.M.S. course in a Homoeopathic College. My cousin, Dalip left his studies mid way due to circumstances and came to Jaipur in search of job along with me. As his age was that of a student and also being good in studies, everybody advised me that he should be made to study further. That is why I got him admitted in my own school in 8th class after obtaining permission. As he had studied up to only 4th class at village, he did face difficulty at first, but after receiving full help at home, he started progressing like other students. He also started getting respect being the teachers younger brother. He used to cook meals, wash utensils at home. Slowly he attained mastery over household chores. After some time, I discovered that he started developing blisters on his hands. I thought that he developed these on his hands due to getting burnt while preparing chapatis on the hot plate. I instructed him and he also observed a lot of caution. In spite of this, he continued to develop blisters on his palms and fingers. Their base was bloody red. After some time, when I saw his back and chest, some whitish-yellow patches were also visible. I decided to take him to a Skin Specialist. Before this could be done, he ran away from my home. I tried my best to find him out, unfortunately he could not be traced.
After a period of 4 or 5 months, I met him suddenly in the market. He was looking energetic and happy. He was also looking greatly improved in his disease. According to him, he was working in the house of some doctor named, Dr. Miss Saxena. He used to meet me often after that. After some long time span, I had to go to village for attending my younger brothers marriage. I also wanted to take Dalip along with me for that. When I met Dr. Saxena and asked for his leave, I discovered that Dr. Saxena was going to admit him in a Leprotic Hospital. I felt pity on him. What would I say to his mother regarding him, started troubling me. So I urged the doctor that I wanted to take him to his mother for once. She agreed to my request. I made an excuse to the inquiring people that he got burnt while preparing meals. After his leave, Dalip went back to the doctor. Doctor had part-time practice. A lot of money used to remain here and there. She had full trust on Dalip, but one day he ran away with some money. The doctor wanted to find him out, so that he could be treated fully or maybe she wanted to name him as her heir or maybe for some other reason. But he went away to his brother in some other city. I also lost contact with him.
After some time, I came to Chandigarh from Jaipur. I got here a job of Physician cum Lecturer in the local Homeopathic College. I was allowed to do private practice as it being a private college. I began doing part-time practice at my residence cum clinic. After some time, an acquaintance of mine brought his mother-in-law to me for her treatment. The patient was a mother of 4-5 children. She also had received treatment for 4-5 years in the area she used to reside. Unable to get cured, she came to Chandigarh along with her daughters husband. It would have been good if he got his mother-in-law treated by a skin specialist at a hospital. But it was either destiny of that woman or it was my fate that she came to me for treatment. She had blisters in her hands and knees. When they would heal up after few dressings, other would crop up. She did not improve at all even after 2 months of my treatment. She was taken to the P.G.I.M.E.R. Chandigarh for the skin test where she was diagnosed as a leprotic patient according to the duty doctor. During this, I gave her only two days medicine taking into consideration the test report. On the third day when she came to my clinic, there were no blisters anywhere. This was unbelievable. I thanked God. Probably the faith in him boosted both of us. I later heard it from someone that Leprosy erupts again after 9 years. But this patient even after 18-19 years of time, was still fine.
During my practice, I also encountered a small girl. The father of the girl was receiving treatment from me for a stone in his kidney. One day he brought along his 2-year old girl for checkup. The index finger of her right hand had been reduced to half of its original length. The wound was still present. I gave her medicine keeping in mind my past experience and this led to her wound healing up in a week. I had told her father in advance that this was a dreaded disease, but did not give him the fear that it was leprosy. His stone had already been removed. He never visited me again nor brought his daughter to me for getting medicine so that this disease could be cured forever.
After one year, he came along with his daughter, accompanied by a friend with a frightened state to my clinic. The condition of the girl was quite pathetic as the little finger of the left hand and the small toe of the left foot had withered away. There was still a wound that was withering away the small toe of the right foot. He took her to many places but on getting no relief, he came to me. I reprimanded him for resorting to this. He agreed to his mistake and sat silently. On enquiring whether any tests were conducted, he showed me the report issued by P.G.I. Hospital, which mentioned about leprosy in medical terms. Due to long span of treatment there, he consulted a private physician, but on getting no benefit, he at last remembered me. I gave her the medicine which I had to give earlier and her wound got healed up fully after one week of treatment. His father stopped the treatment of his own. Nearly 14-15 years have passed. I hope the girl would be all right.
During this time, I came to know that Dalip was receiving treatment at D.M.C. College and Hospital at Ludhiana. He had also been operated upon. On some recovery, he once visited me. On asking further, he was still on medications. That is why I could not give him my medicine in spite of my wish to do so. Later on, I did send the medicine through his brother, but I did not receive any response from his side. Though he is fine now.
All these above mentioned happenings casted a strong effect on my mind and soul. One day I along with my junior doctor went ahead in search of a leprotic colony as I had no prior information about their locality and reached Madras Colony by approximation. There we came to know that leprotic patients used to live near 3BRD in Sector 31. They had been granted permission by the administration to beg in the city for one day in a week.
One day I went alone to meet them. On reaching there, I found almost all the patients were having bandages on their hands or feet for which they used to go to private practitioner at sector 47. I saw that their children were healthy like normal kids. They also had got constructed a temple there. The priest in it was also a leprotic patient. When I interacted with their head, he told me that the skin specialists from P.G.I. Hospital used to visit them and medicate them time and again as per their schedule. Their children received education in some school sponsored by some Social Organization. There I met a patient who had been receiving treatment for leprosy for the past 10-12 years. He was giving information about all types of leprosy prevalent which a general physician does not possess. After listening to them and seeing their will power, I derived a lot of satisfaction. On being looked after by a big hospital, I did not feel the need to treat them with my medicine (Homoeopathic) and made some monetary contribution and returned to my home. Now I keep on getting thoughts about whether the leprotic patients are receiving the right kind of treatment. If not so, then why.
Dr. P.S. Rawat
Professor of Repertory
Chandola Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Rudrapur
District-Udham Singh Nagar, Uttarakhand, India
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