Punam and her sister Neelam
Mary, a member of the visiting team from Nepal Leprosy Trust Ireland, saw 10 year old Punam crying as she soaked her feet at a self help group meeting in Kapileswar village.
“One of Punam’s toes had fallen to the left and there was a huge ulcer on that foot. The lady with her said she had to work so hard in her home and mind 2 younger children. So she wasn’t getting any rest for the foot. Punam’s mother had told her if she couldn’t work she wasn’t wanted. The doctors said she might be dead by 20. I thought of my own girls having to go through that.”
Now Mary is paying fees and medical costs for Punam, now aged 19, and her younger sister Neelam aged 12 to go to boarding school in nearby Janakpur.
These girls require regular medical attention for their leprosy damaged limbs. They have permanent nerve damage and are at risk of ongoing ulceration and further damage may inevitably occur as they feel no pain.
The situation faced by these girls is a common one for people who are affected by leprosy. They may be officially “cured”, but often have permanent nerve impairment which can cause anaesthesia in hands or feet or even faces, and this in turn makes them very vulnerable to damage.