THE STORY OF ARIYALATHA - POLONNARUWA
Age: 60 years
(This interview was conducted by FAIRMED Project Officer of Polonnaruwa District)
Ariyalatha is a widow who lives with her only daughter. Although the village she lives in is located just next to the town, her house was set in a very calm and peaceful surrounding with lush green trees. This was not the first time that we visited her house as we initially came to her place while conducting home visits during a Ring Survey due to her being a leprosy defaulter. However, the Regional Epidemiologist, Public Health Inspector- Leprosy and the Range Public Health Inspector visiting her home on that day to examine her caused a stir and she broke into tears as she was worried that others might find out about her condition. The RE calmed her down and managed to persuade her to present to the Dermatology clinic in Polonnaruwa hospital where she is now continuing her treatment.
When I called her prior to visiting her house for the interview, she specifically requested me to come alone to protect her confidentiality. When I went to her place, I was welcomed by her daughter. Then, after stealing a glance at the nearby surrounding houses, Ariyalatha came and joined us.
She then slowly opened up about her struggles, describing how her husband was not permanently employed and the difficulties she and her daughter have been facing after he passed away 5 years ago. She is self-employed and sews curtains for a living and takes care of her daughter. She loves spending her free time gardening or reading newspapers.
Ariyalatha first started experiencing numbness in her hands while sewing in 2015. She sought medical treatment from a nearby General practitioner who referred her to the Dermatology clinic in Polonnaruwa General Hospital. While on treatment, she has experienced constant drowsiness and weakness. She was emotional when she said that she had to stop her treatment as it was interfering with her sewing, which was her sole source of income to take care of her daughter. She has not known previously about the complications that could arise with noncompliance of treatment. When asked what the challenges that she faces day to day, she said It’s facing life with my daughter, because she is still presently studying for Advanced Level, so it’s the difficulty to continue my job and hiding my condition from the neighbours as when the PHI visits my household they question the reason for his visit.
She has not participated in any other programmes conducted in the area other than the ring survey. However, a positive shift in her attitude was clearly visible as she thanked the team immensely for redirecting her for treatment and requested to conduct more home visits to screen for leprosy and increase awareness of the community on the disease.