Mahendra

Mahendra is 16 years old and comes from Janakpur in the Eastern Terai region of Nepal. Like most of the Nepalese population, his family farm for a living.

At 10 years’ old, he developed cracked, dry skin on his feet and lost sensation in his toes. The cracks gradually enlarged, became infected and developed into ulcers which did not heal. His family took him to over 20 private hospitals to try to treat the condition but the diagnoses were wrong and the treatments didn’t work. Meanwhile his ulcers were worsening and he developed clawed fingers. By 14 years’ old, he had already lost several toes. He finally received a diagnosis of leprosy at Lalgadh leprosy hospital, near Janakpur.  

Upon receiving the diagnosis, Mahendra was rejected by his father and his sisters and told not to return home from Lalgadh. He said, “my father hated me. He thought he would catch leprosy from me. He didn’t want me around.”  At Lalgadh he was given multi-drug therapy and his ulcers were dressed and although treated for the disease, the lack of sensation in his feet worsened and he continued to injure himself. At the age of 15, he suffered a severe fracture and was referred to Anandaban leprosy hospital, near Kathmandu, Central Region. He was a long way from home there.

Mahendra was assessed by the doctors at Anandaban and told that the deformity and tissue infection was too severe to be repaired or treated. He needed an amputation below the knee. He was very depressed and crying most of the time with no hope for his life.  Nobody visited him or called him during this desperate time. 

After several months, he was ready to return home with a prosthetic limb made at the hospital. He hoped that his father would accept him but he didn’t think it was likely. He said, “I will drink poison and die. I have no future.”  

Ruth, a psychologist working as a counsellor with patients affected by leprosy at Anandaban, supported Mahendra as he recovered from his amputation. She said, “Mahendra was rejected by his father. I met him for the first time after he’d travelled a long way to Anandaban. His leg was very badly wounded and then amputated. Nobody visited him or called him. He was very depressed and crying most of the time with no hope for his life. His father said that it would be better if he had died; even I was shocked by his story. After many counselling sessions, we managed to build up his self-esteem.” 

Mahendra had to stop school at the age of ten because of leprosy, so he lacks any qualifications. With his amputation and the risk of further injuries, he cannot become a farm labourer. He says he is interested in working with mobile phones, perhaps fixing them, but the deformities to his hands means that he has lost most fingertips and his joints are swollen which might prevent him from intricate work. He has also been thinking of opening a small shop, but worries that people would not want to be served by him, due to his deformities. 

Ruth said “I am realistic about the rejection that Mahendra is likely to face. Ultimately, he may have to relocate somewhere else where he can get a job and housing without the support of his family. We will do all that we can to help him.” 

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