GB Paralympian Stef Reid has taken time out of training for Tokyo 2020 to help encourage and mentor leprosy patients.
A Paralympic long jumper and sprinter, Stef went to Nepal to literally walk in the shoes of locals. She switched her state-of-the-art prosthetic foot with one made in the The Leprosy Mission’s Anandaban hospital workshop, which makes prosthetic limbs for those who have lost limbs as a result of leprosy.
The London 2012 Olympics silver medalist lost her right foot in a boating accident, aged 15. Stef, who’s since gone onto win medals at European and World level, commented:
A lot of the way they did the casting was really similar to what I experience in the UK, and this is bearing in mind I go to a very amazing private clinic.
You can always tell someone knows what they’re doing by the way they interact with your stump, your residual limb. You can see the guys at Anandaban Hospital have done the casting many times before.
But in many ways it was also really hard this morning and actually after seeing the things they make, I think I almost felt a little bit embarrassed about the leg that I have, in that my leg is so advanced and it does have the best technology.
It’s amazing to see how great their casting is, they are doing everything right. It’s just that hurdle of prosthetic legs just cost so much and that’s hard to know.
Stef met patients whose homes were destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes, which killed 9,000 people in Nepal. She added:
Before I travelled to Nepal I think there was that hesitation of ‘I really hope I’ll be able to communicate well and they are going to understand me.’
But in the end it didn’t even matter. I had people coming up to me just wanting to hold my hand. We just stood there and didn’t really have to say anything at all!
It has become so clear to me that it doesn’t matter where in the world you are or what culture you are from, we all want the same things.
But leprosy is a really hard disease on so many fronts and not just because of the health problems it causes. We have seen that sometimes the things that can be most difficult is the loss of community and stigma associated with leprosy.
Anandaban Hospital in Nepal was designated a Disaster Response Centre by the Government of Nepal in the wake of the 2015 earthquakes, after it reached out to 18,000 earthquake victims, as well as leading the world’s fight against leprosy.
In addition to being the national specialist leprosy referral hospital for Nepal, it is an International Leprosy Training Centre training doctors and surgeons globally.
To support the work of the hospital and The Leprosy Mission, visit www.leprosymission.org.uk. All donations made to its Heal Nepal campaign before 27 April will be doubled by the UK government.
Picture: The Leprosy Mission