October 31, 2017
Eesha Desai, under-graduate, Bachelor of Health Sciences, at Boston University and new ILEP intern shares her story
Coming from a fairly sheltered life in the U.S., prior to my visit to The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) in the summer of 2016, I was subject to the common myths surrounding leprosy. The biggest misconception I had is that leprosy has been completely eradicated, when in fact, every two minutes a new person is diagnosed with the disease. TLMTI’s hospital in New Delhi gave me the eye opening experience to witness a first hand account of the disease, its complications, and the disproportionate impact it has on lower socioeconomic classes.
Hardworking individuals have their lives uprooted upon diagnosis, and are forced to travel long distances to seek treatment in an attempt to not be ostracized by their local communities.
The most impactful part of my experience with TLMTI, was the direct interaction I was able to have with patients. My group and I spent over an hour playing board games with and talking to patients about their experiences. This shattered the even bigger notion that healthy individuals should not interact with those with leprosy out of fear of contracting the disease, when in fact multidrug therapy stops a person from spreading leprosy, and most individuals with an intact immune system and proper nutrition will not contract the disease.
The lasting memories of sharing laughter, high-fives and hugs with these patients enabled me to leave TLMTI, go back to my family, and share what I learned to change others perception of the disease. This also prompted me to seek my current position as an intern with ILEP where I hope to contribute to the goals of this organization and its partner anti-leprosy associations.