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ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

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‘Is she a social leper?’ or ‘Is her society leperous?’

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on May 5, 2009

She was just 30 years old, a mother of three. She had dreams of seeing them grow up into responsible adults. Future had something else in store for her. She noticed  few white patches on her body. The local doctor told her that  she had contracted ‘bada rog‘ meaning the big disease Leprosy. She was thrown out from her family and village  immediately.hand-of-a-woman-of-substance-marred-by-leprosy

She stayed in a Leprosy home for two years. She completed multi-drug treatment and was discharged with a ‘cured’ certificate. Who cares about certificates in a culture where everything has a price? She was not  received in her village. She was heart-broken, when people cast aspersions on her character. After all, she was away from her husband for two years. They  expect her to be like her husband who cannot ‘live’ without a partner. He had married another woman and was expecting a child by the time she returned.

She left her village, depressed. Determined to live, she found a place in a colony of ‘lepers’. Here, people thrown out from their villages got together and formed a community of their own. She begged to make a living. She cooked her meals herself in a little hut.  She shared her ‘collection’ with older members in the colony, who were too sick to go out begging.

The colony was the last stop for many people till they died. So people usually found partners and got married within the new community to begin a new life.  She did not. She loved her family. It was not that she expected to be reunited with her husband, but she just could not see someone else as a husband. She took a small child with leprosy into her custody and cared for him.

She  became a Christian few years ago. She is not allowed to even visit her village for this reason. Her children loved her. They brought their own children to show them to their mother. They usually came in the morning and left within a few hours.

Despite their love for her, they do not eat in her home but eat in a hotel.  They do not want to make themselves ‘impure’ eating in a Christian’s house. They do not mind drinking water from her neighbour’s house.(Remember it is a Leprosy colony)

Christianity had made her a social leper. She still thanks God and says “So what if they do not eat in my home, they at least visit me. I am happy for that.” When it is time for children to leave, she gives them some money from her little savings.

She lives with a hope. Though her earthly hope has been robbed away by our cultural values, her hope in God is an eternal one, which cannot be taken away from her.

I am previlaged to be the doctor of a woman of such substance. I wonder if she is a social leper missing the society or is the society leperous missing someone like her?


15 Responses to “‘Is she a social leper?’ or ‘Is her society leperous?’”

  1. nidhi said

    the society is leperous!!!!…n absolutely unclean!!!but nice to know she found her way to god!!!god accepts everyone just the way they are!

  2. Dr.Navdeep said

    society z leperous. Her fam lost her nt she. She z 2 nice 2 b wid dem, who, even after nt acceptd by fam didnt go 4 any1 else

  3. Bertha said

    Dear Dheeraj,
    Nice to see your postes….very philosophical and thought provoking! But one question haunts me……. do you get permission from the people about whom you write? Is it ethical to expose some ones life, pain and misery wihtout their consent, to the rest of the world, even if it si done with such a noble intention?
    Wonder as I ponder??

  4. Dexter said

    I also have the question posed by Bertha… jus wanna know if uve thought abt it… n if yes… wanna know ur thoughts..

    but… again… a story of intensity! surely our society n we are more infected…. deeply…. than anyone with bada-rog…

    keep writing

  5. Dheeraj Kattula said

    Thanks Bertha akka and Dexter for your comments. Thanks for making me ponder on the issues you have raised. You have asked:-

    1. If I take permission from the one’s whose life was touched in my posts?

    Ans: I have not asked for their permission till now, as I had not intended to write about them at the time that I dealt with them. I would be conscious of the fact that I might write on a patient. I would make it a point to seek their permission in future, if it does not harm the therapy in anyway. What if it my permission seeking could affect the relationship, would I refrain from such a story? I would explain shortly.

    2. Is it ethical to expose some one’s life, pain and misery without their consent, to the rest of the world even if done with noble intentions?

    Ans: I have not exposed anybody’s shame. Rather, my intention is to sharing their real stories of pain in disease and treatment/ therapy. I understand the spirit of your question. It is regarding breach in confidentiality, when a story becomes public. Is that ethical? I would feel very upset if I were to harm a patient even if I do one no good. Therefore I do not wish any of the ones to be ‘identified’ as there is stigma attached to being ill and more so if the illness is psychological. Therefore I have written “I love to be frank and open in my articles but I also wish to ensure confidentiality for my patients, their relatives, my co-workers and friends. So, many times I leave people unnamed and at times, I use imaginary initials.”in the ‘about’ page itself.
    Regarding the larger question of sharing information of patients, let me share with you the ethics from medical literature regarding confidentiality. You may click this and read regarding a case in UK in the 1990’s and you may follow the articles which have cited this to get a more complete picture.

    Peter Tyrer said “Experts can pontificate on hypotheses, proportions, means and significance to little effect and the real message comes home from a sufferer or successfully treated patient who adds human flesh to a dry factual skeleton. This need to particularise is necessary in all parts of teaching.” Having said this I wish to reaffirm my respect for confidentiality of one’s in my posts. If I have given away too much of personal information, which is not needed to make the point, please inform me. I would edit /even delete the post. In fact, I have done so.

    I had an option of writing an anonymous blog. I thought it would not make much sense. A person and his message are to go together. You cannot divorce one from another without losing something in essence. So, I decided to reveal myself.
    I also had the option of writing the same things under ‘fiction’ category. No one can find fault with me, when I have a ‘fictitious’ disclaimer. American author Jim Rohn said “The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.”I do not mind that humiliation to avoid dilution of expression of my thoughts, emotions and experiences.

  6. Bino Berry said

    Dear Dheeraj,

    It is disheartening to hear such stories. As I am working in the Leprosy mission, we see people suffering of the same kind right in front of our eyes. In case, if any of your patients need rehabilitation, support please let me know.We are here to help them. Even free vocational training are available for the children of the leprosy afflicted.

    Thanks for bringing such stories to the limelight.

    • Dheeraj Kattula said

      Dear Bino,

      I am happy to hear that you are working in The Leprosy Mission.I work in Graham Staines Memorial Hospital,which is a project of one of your aided centers.I am aware of the vocational training institutes.In fact I give medical certificates for applicants from this region.

      It is true that despite the good treatment available I still see people presenting late.Last week we had a patient with Bacteriological Index 5+.Post treatment also many people still face stigma.The other problem is that ‘higher-ups’ are thinking Leprosy has disappeared and is nearly eradicated !!!

      Good that TLM and GSMH are now involved in General Hospital work.No one will be able to identify which patient comes for which disease.:-)
      Thanks for your comment.

  7. […] ‘Is she a social leper?’ or ‘Is her society leperous?’ […]

  8. antony said

    how hypocritic her family members are?
    they can t eat food or drink water at her home.. but can receive the hard earned money she gives them ?

  9. Dheeraj Kattula said

    Last week,I met this person after a long time.She is in her late forties now.
    She told me that she has got married.”What? Married!!!”,I could not believe it.She said that she had fallen sick and there was no one to take care of her.So after she recuperated she decided that she needed a companion.

    I asked the nursing sister to examine her for her current problems.She had a Grade III uterus prolapse and she had it like that for quite some time.I realized that the purpose of marriage is companionship.Other things are add-ons which make it better but can never be a substitute for it.
    I am happy she has moved on in her life.

  10. abbey said

    The story of this woman shows the miracle of having a relationship with Jesus, not the miracle of therapy. It was not inner strength that kept this amazing woman going through her isolation and pain, it was the peace that came with knowing the God that came to earth in the lowly human flesh to die for her so that when she dies, she is promised an eternity with him. so that the barrier between the perfect holiness of God and the sinful state of humankind was ripped from top to bottom and now, since she believes in Jesus, she will never be alone. A woman shunned by all those she knew, including her husband, is being held in the arms of an almighty God that loves her more than we can imagine. I pray you who read this will see that the contentment, hope, and love she exhibited through her condition and the discrimination shown by even her own children transcends the capability of a human without the help of God, and this same miracle is available to us when we believe in Christ.

  11. abbey said

    by the way Dheeraj, do not think i am insulting what you are doing for these people. my father is a psychologist, and i respect your compassion to try to help “the least of these”. I merely want to make the point that her view on life regardless of her position in it is an obvious arrow to the amazing, hope filled, reality of Jesus working actively and personally in peoples lives.

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