Balaram is 25 and a few years ago he was a successful market researcher. He enjoyed hanging out with his friends and spending time with his family and the fact that he had previously been affected by leprosy as a teenager did not bother him – he had after all been cured.
It was 2002 when he was diagnosed.
“I was totally down when I found out I had leprosy. I heard about leprosy on the TV and knew it meant disability.”
However, Balaram had been diagnosed before a disability had set in so he’d gone on to lead a normal life going to university and becoming a market researcher. 12 years later the signs of leprosy reappeared clawing Balaram’s hands.
When we meet him at Cuttack hospital, just outside of Bhubaneshwar in India, he’s visiting our centre for a fifth surgery. In the months since he’s been re-diagnosed Balaram has lost his job.
“I want to go back to work. I had to quit my job. They wanted to know why I was taking time off and I couldn’t tell them so I was absconded.”
He asks us why he’s now got a disability when he believed he was cured many years ago.
Our staff believe that Balaram didn’t perhaps take the multi-drug therapy for long enough and so the disease lived on in his system for many years.
We’ve been able to put Balaram on multi-drug therapy again and monitored him carefully making sure he no longer carries leprosy. We’ve also provided physiotherapy after each surgery and it’s slowly making a difference.
“I couldn’t do my buttons on my shirt before but now I can. The way I ate also used to look odd.”
Although Balaram is happy to be getting the treatment he needs and restored functionality to his hands, the disease has still robbed him of his life. Once a successful professional, he is now unemployed and ashamed.
“Of course I hide it because I know there is prejudice.”
We’ll continue to work with Balaram helping him to once again to wiggle his fingers and thumb. He tells us he hopes that once this happens he’ll be able to return to his career.