A healing touch that turned a life around

Usha with her daughter, Abha

Barely one, little Abha’s eyes light up when she looks at her mother. All she sees is pure love and joy.  She is oblivious to the marks etched on her mother’s face-a cue to the painful journey she had gone through. Usha Mathur, 30, underwent a traumatic experience after she was diagnosed with leprosy in 2001.

Belonging to a poor family, Usha was deprived of a chance to attend school. She was married off at an early age of 13. Her in-laws worked as migrant labourers. Usha accompanied them to Kashmir, a year after her marriage. There, she suffered from fever and nodular lesions all over her face and body. No one paid heed to her. Her condition worsened and her eyes were also affected. She was referred to a local doctor in Kashmir, but it was of little help. Her father-in-law dropped her at her mother’s home in Bilaspur district in Chhattisgarh.  “When you get well, we will take you back,” her father-in-law said while leaving.

Usha’s neighbours advised her family to take her to TLM Community Hospital in Champa, Chhattisgarh. There, she was diagnosed with leprosy and was hospitalised for around six months. “I was very serious and had a severe reaction. For three months, I could not get up from the hospital bed; my body was very weak and bones had started protruding. I was in much pain,” shared Usha.

Her husband and her in-laws never visited Usha in the hospital even once; however, her family member visited her several times.  After her treatment was over, Usha was sent back home. “Her condition was so critical that although her parents loved her a lot, I sensed they were in a dilemma whether or not to take her back. Her sister supported her throughout,” said Dr Sandeep Kumar, Medical Superintendent, TLM Champa Hospital.

On hearing about Usha’s recovery, her in-laws came to take her back, but her family refused to send her, as they had abandoned her when she needed them. But the ordeal was not over for Usha. She suffered from reaction off and on and was again admitted to TLM hospital. “Feeling sorry for her, we adopted Usha and told her she would stay no more in the hospital but stay in the hostel for students of our vocational training centre (VTC) in our compound,” said Dr Sandeep. He wanted her to join the VTC, but Usha initially showed little inclination. “Since the beginning, Usha was a quiet, shy girl. After staying in the hostel, her behaviour started changing and she opened up to the staff and children studying in the VTC. She received mental and moral support from our staff nurse, Rinki, who also was staying in the hostel at that time. Finally, Usha joined the tailoring trade and learnt it well,” added Dr Sandeep.

Usha spent around two-and-a-half years in the VTC hostel. Often, she would be admitted to the hospital when she suffered from a reaction. “Initially, I was disheartened when I joined the VTC. I was illiterate; didn’t know anything and remained unwell due to reaction; I used to cry, but after six months, I started enjoying the tailoring course,” shared Usha.

According to staff nurse, Rinki, “Usha showed an urge to learn everything. She learned to read and write while she was in the VTC.  She also learned to write her name in English. In the ward, we used to give her a pen to write. She would always come forward to help us with stitching clothes in the hospital. She would often teach us (tailoring) as she had received training in tailoring and we were untrained. She was not fluent with language but was very intelligent.”

When Usha recovered completely almost after two-and-a-half years, the VTC gave her a sewing machine to start her own tailoring shop. Once home, she was able to earn enough to cater to her needs. After her father’s death, her mother advised her to re-marry. Usha has been married for two-and-a-half years now and is a mother of a baby girl, Abha. Her husband is an agricultural farmer and takes good care of her. Her little bundle of joy has given a new dimension to her life!

Usha, with her husband and daughter,
when they visited TLM Champa Hospital,
to treat lepra reaction

Usha’s husband and daughter