This afternoon I finally got to go to the much anticipated cured leprosy village! It was such an amazing, rewarding experience. I thought that it would be really difficult for me to clean the wounds since I’ve been known to be squeamish in the past, but I was actually completely fine. Many of the wounds were quite deep and some were bleeding or pussing. However, none of the people we were treating felt any pain as the bacteria that causes leprosy (mycrobacterium leprae) damages the nerves.
Many of the people had deformed limbs; hands and feet were the most common misshapen areas as mycrobaterium leprae likes cool areas. (Side note: most of this medical information is coming from Sara, who just finished her first year of med school and is a wealth of information, and George, a nurse who works with Blue-Med and is Richard’s brother). Several of them were scooting themselves across the floor or relied on walking sticks to get from place to place. I was incredibly impressed that they had adapted so well and could manage completely on their own.
There are about 50-60 people living in the leprosy village, 16 of which have unhealed wounds. All of the lepers have been cured by a year-long antibiotic regiment, but they are still rejected from society because of their deformities. There are several kids who live in the village as well, none of whom have had leprosy.
While I was dressing a man’s wound, one of the women started yelling at her teenage daughter. The shouting kept escalating and then the woman rapidly scooted herself over to her daughter, pulled herself up onto a bench and began slapping her daughter across the face repeatedly. I was in total shock. Part of me wanted to jump up and restrain the woman from hitting her sobbing child and the rest of me was completely dumbfounded by the situation. No one else seemed to be bothered by it; those waiting to get their wounds cleaned just watched and the volunteers kept attending to them. The seemingly routine nature of the situation, combined with the fact that I was in the middle of cleaning a rather deep foot wound, refrained me from doing anything besides gawk. The fight ended rather abruptly. After it was over, one of the Blue-Med staff, a man named Bright, lectured the woman about hitting her child.
Once we finished cleaning everyone’s wounds, I approached the children who had congregated at one of the nearby tables. We started playing clapping games, which I’ve learned from my years as a camp counselor are a universal way to break the ice. They taught me a few Ghanaian games and I showed them some American ones. All of us having short attention spans, we quickly moved on to a new set of games: musical chairs. After much shouting and laughing, musical chairs turned into dance lessons. Some of the kids were absolutely incredible dancers. They kept trying to teach me their moves and after many failed attempts I maybe kind of sort of got the hang of it. A little bit. I’m still mind boggled (and a little jealous) as to how even the young kids can move their bodies so well!