Surgery is the Next Best Thing


By: Rebecca Collette


Poonam comes from a large, loving family. She has 3 sisters, 2 brothers and they all live with their mother and father. It is unclear for how long Poonam had leprosy before her joints starting to hurt. Poonam's condition continued to get worse over the years. She developed ulcers in her feet - She couldn't even walk. She went to a government hospital that diagnosed her with leprosy and gave her the treatment, Multi-drug therapy.
 
While the treatment eliminated the disease, it did not correct her physical pain or disabilities. She was so ashamed of her disability that she stopped going to school. Poonam's family was also struggling - Supporting a child with disabilities can be financially devastating for such a large family living on only a labourer’s income. 
 

Poonam’s feet had become so damaged that her mother had to carry her everywhere. 

Fortunately, a close friend and neighbor knew about the Leprosy Mission Hospital in Naini. He encouraged the family to take Poonam there. Poonam was only 14 at the time. 

Poonam has been at the TLM India’s Naini Hospital (that you long support), for a year and a half. During this time Poonam has had seven surgeries. Even though Poonam couldn’t walk, the doctors at Naini determined that the most pressing issue was her inability to blink. This is called lagophthalmos. This condition of the nervous system creates an inability to completely close the eyelids- she could not blink. Blinking helps to keep the eyes moist, so when the exposed area between the eyelids dries, it can compromise or destroy a person’s vision. It is a common consequence of leprosy. The doctors acted quickly to save Poonam’s vision.

Eye Surgery

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But things are not all smiles for Poonam. After seven surgeries, rigorous and sometimes frustrating physiotherapy, and a year-and-a-half away from family and school, Poonam feels defeated. She knows that there are just some things surgery will never fix. She does not want to go back to school. 

Her greatest joy is cooking. At the moment, cooking is not a safe activity because she has no feeling in her hands. Perhaps, over time, she will learn strategies to again enjoy cooking and school will be accessible for her.  

This is a tragic story - If Poonam and her family had known how to recognize the early signs and symptoms of leprosy, she would not have seen her youth vanish as it has. If they caught it early, Poonam would not have endured the horrible pain, the ulcers, and the need for seven surgeries.

That is why catching leprosy early is vital. Surgery is only the next best thing: preventing disabilities from happening at all is the best solution.

Early Diagnosis: Faster Cure

Your gift is life-changing! You can prevent permanent disabilities and physical and emotional scars that are usually the result of late Leprosy diagnosis and treatment.

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