Interview: Naseer shares LF experience with Jenny Barraclough
Sitting among the patients in the Dhoolphet Referral Centre was 40-year-old Naseer with a good looking, yet sad face.
It was hard to concentrate on his face because my eyes were drawn to the extreme swelling of his right calf, about 18 inches wide, falling in great folds, encrusted like an elephant’s leg, one might say. Nazeer has lymphatic filariasis which people get from the bite of an infected mosquito. It affects legs, genitals, breasts and arms.
I started chatting to Naseer. He proudly showed me a piece of iron chain – his old job had been as an iron worker, making chain links. I asked him how his family managed.
He said his two sons aged 14 and 16 had to work, selling vegetables from a cart. His wife works as a cleaner.
He added suddenly: ‘There is no love in my home.’ Rather taken aback I said: ‘But I expect you have friends.’ ‘No.’ he said. Long pause. ‘My only friends are these people, here, in LEPRA.’
--image2--Later we took his photo and when I teased him about being treated like a film star, there was a wonderful moment when his face broke into a beautiful, rare smile.
That afternoon I visited his home. He shares a small room that included a cooking area with his family of six. It was grim and gloomy.
I imagined Naseer’s life. Unable to support his family, barely able to walk (he has to drag his swollen foot behind him), despised by his family for being ‘useless’, shunned by neighbours and ashamed to go out. No wonder he struggled to get to LEPRA’s Dhoolpet Centre.
Here he is met with kindness and smiles, and his swollen leg is gently bathed and massaged. With regular care, swellings can be reduced and the infections that accompany the disease can be treated.
Naseer faces an unenviable choice. Should he continue as he is, unable to work and facing appalling stigma, or should he have his leg amputated? Amputation would make mobility worse but at least there would be marginally less stigma.
Although LF affects over 120 million people in 81 countries, this terrible disease is almost unrecognised. LEPRA is the only LF charity I know that takes it on in these areas and brings light into the lives of people like Naseer.
Posted by admin 10:51 13.01.2011
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‘A big thank you to Mr Waterman and his team at Fulston Manor!’