Indra Kala first had signs of leprosy when she was a child, and by the age of 12 could feel tingling in her hands and feet and was losing the sense of feeling in them. The family did not consult a doctor even though her father was leprosy affected before he died some years before.
By the age of 17, both Indra Kala’s hands were clawed, and ulcers and eye complications had set in along with drop-foot. These visible deformities spurred the family into action but traditional healers, and even a brush with some leprosy medicine, made no improvement. The local community and family and friends began to stay away from her and were scared if she came near. Indra kala continued to deteriorate and
could soon only walk with a stick. Both feet were now anaesthetic and ulcerated and she had lost her confidence and avoided going out at all.
Her family made her a separate place to live, sealed off from their house and with only a hole in one outside wall for Indra Kala to go in and out of. She had a cup, a plate, a sleeping mat, and a mosquito net, and these were her only possessions for the next 12 years. Her mother gave her food, and Indra Kala only came out at night into an en
closed yard area and so had no human contact apart from her mother, for all that time. In Nepal, where life revolves around community, Indra Kala was effectively like a dead person, her “life” circumscribed by the four walls of her cell. Without any further medical help her body continued to deteriorate and her eyes, hands, and feet became badly damaged. Her life was totally miserable, and she herself felt that she had no reason to be alive.
Last year – in June 2010 – the Community Department at Lalgadh heard a rumour from a Self Help Group not far from Indra Kala’s village, about a woman with leprosy who was kept hidden away. They set out to find her and after a two and a half hour journey by landrover, located her. It took some time to coax her out of her cell and she was very afraid, but in the end she made her first journey for many years, away from her “home” and to a new world at Lalgadh where there were other people with leprosy who understood her problems, and where she was at last able to receive some proper medical treatment for her poor hands, feet and eyes. Caring human contact started to make an impact on her and after a few weeks she was able to smile and enjoy the sensation of being in a group again, and of being valued as a human being.
Indra Kala has since had surgery on her right foot, which was so badly damaged that she could not walk
on it. A “Symes” amputation and a special boot has enabled her to walk again, and surgery is planned to correct the foot-drop in her left foot. It will take quite a long time for her to become confident enough to be more independent, and there is also the challenge of persuading her family and the community to allow her to participate in normal everyday life. However, that is all part of our work, which has seen many people like Indra Kala over the years, and has helped many of them to rediscover dignity, friendship, and independence. We look forward to the next chapter of this story.