Motapothula, aged 60, is a resident of Penugolanu- a small village in the Gampalagudem Tehsil of Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, India. Here he tells us of his experiences of Covid-19 as a person affected by leprosy.
My name is Motapothula, I have two sons; my younger son is enrolled in a Lepra vocational training programme learning to become a diesel mechanic in Vizianagaram, almost 400km away, and my eldest son, along with his wife and two daughters live with us in our family home. I first showed signs of leprosy as a boy and over the next few years I developed ulcers in both of my feet. I received multi-drug therapy and spent some time in hospital having my ulcers treated and dressed; with rest they began to heal."
But after two years the ulcers returned. This time staff at the local hospital were too busy treating patients with HIV to treat me but thankfully I was approached by Lepra staff who sent me to the Leprosy Health Centre in Nalgonda. After four months of treatment and care the ulcers had healed once more.
I regularly attend camps conducted by Lepra staff where not only do I receive treatment but I’ve been shown how to care for my ulcers at home. Lepra have supplied me with ulcer kits containing bandages, pads and ointments to dress my ulcers myself but also they have given me customised footwear made of multi-cellular rubber that support my feet well and protect them from further damage. I no longer take part in agricultural labour but I am able to advise my family on harvesting."
Covid-19 has created many problems for us, particularly economically. All work, including farming was not allowed for two months so our crops and our livelihood have suffered. We have been sustained through rations of rice and we could supplement these with my disability pension.
I am afraid of Covid-19 because it is highly infectious. In our village so many people have been infected. We don’t go outside for long periods of time and all of our family is fearful of Covid-19.
I’d heard that the Government were providing vaccines so I went to try and get one but the queue was really lengthy and I cannot stand for long due to my ulcerated feet. I waited as long as I could manage but came home without receiving the vaccine.
The self-care camps were suspended because of Covid-19 and I worried that my ulcers would worsen, but Lepra staff came to my house to give me provisions and to dress my wounds. They told me that they were trying to spread the word about the vaccines and also that Lepra were working with Effect Hope to offer vaccination to people affected by leprosy. I was so happy to hear this! They arranged transport to vaccine centres and we were vaccinated there for free; all of the correct paperwork was organised with the local authorities and we were vaccinated really quickly; it all took less than thirty minutes. I was worried by the talk I’d heard about side-effects but I had none, I used my experience to motivate my family members, neighbours and peers to be vaccinated too.
I feel very happy with the vaccination scheme as now I am safe from infection. I want to convey my sincere thanks to Lepra and Effect Hope for the vaccinations my family and I received.