27 Jan, 2017
Author/blogger Reggie Simpson
If you have seen the classic film Ben-Hur (1959) starring Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur, a wealthy prince and merchant in Jerusalem, you will know that Judah was unjustly condemned to the galleys and his mother and sister imprisoned by the Romans. On his return, Judah finds his mother and sister had contracted leprosy in prison and had been banished to the Valley of Lepers. Indeed, the Bible has many references to leprosy.
But leprosy (also known as Hansen’s Disease) was not restricted to ancient Christians, nor is it an ancient disease. It continues today among many vulnerable people and religions around the world.
World Leprosy Day is celebrated on the last Sunday in January each year to coincide with the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s death on 30 January 1948. Gandhi worked tirelessly to help those afflicted with leprosy.
The goal for World Leprosy Day is to raise the awareness of a disease that many people believe has been eradicated when in fact more than 210,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, more than half of these in India.
Leprosy is an infectious chronic bacterial disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae (a relative of the tuberculosis or ‘TB’ germ).
It targets the nervous system especially the nerves in the cooler parts of the body – the hands, feet, and face. Numb patches on the skin are usually the first sign of the disease.
As the disease progresses it can lead to nerve damage and other complications. Numbness and lack of feeling can lead to injury and wounds that become infected. Changes to the skin leave those suffering with leprosy can lead to ulcers which, left untreated, can cause further damage, wounds and visible disfigurements such as collapsed noses or shortened limbs. Blindness can also occur.
In turn, this can lead to stigma towards those affected and their families, causing them to be shunned and even excluded from everyday life, much as the with the case of the fictitious Judah’s family.
However, leprosy is not hereditary nor can it be caught by touch. It is most common in places of poverty where overcrowding and poor nutrition and housing allow people to become more susceptible to infection. There are still some cases of leprosy in the United Kingdom, but they are often as a result of emigration from susceptible areas around the world and are often misdiagnosed as eczema.
Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy (MDT), which was developed in the early 1980s. Early diagnosis and treatment usually prevent disability related to the disease.
For more information about World Leprosy Day and the charities who are engaged in its eradication, visit:
And for a Podiatry student’s account of her work with leprosy patients in Nepal copy the following link into your web browser
We are delighted to announce that prose written by our Practice Business Manager, Reggie Simpson, will be featured in the Rennie Grove Hospice Care’s Rhyme & Reason 2018 diary, now in its 26th year. The theme for this forthcoming year’s diary is ‘Freedom’. All proceeds from sales of the diary go to support this worthwhile charity.
Reggie says: ‘Although my entry wasn't among the top poetry and prize winners, I was chuffed to be selected for the 2018 diary. The theme was quite broad, but my degrees in politics and love of writing invariably drew me to entering the competition. In the end I settled on a focus of freedom in healthcare, no doubt inspired by my current employment at Betafeet Podiatry and the noble work of Rennie Grove Hospice Care ( www.renniegrove.org ).
Rennie Grove Hospice Care, formally known as Iain Rennie Hospice at Home, merged with Grove House, St Albans in 2010 to integrate services in south western Hertfordshire. The ethos and values of the two charities were closely aligned with the principle of allowing patients to lead a good quality of life at home for as long as possible, helping patients and their families avoid the distress of unnecessary hospital visits whenever possible.
The diaries can be ordered from the Rennie Grove website, payment by debit/credit card. It's part of their annual Christmas/holiday promotion. There will also be copies in local Rennie Grove shops. They are £5 each with additional postage if bought online. Shop locations can be found here: http://www.renniegrove.org/support/our-shops/online-shop/page/2/ .
Here is Reggie’s entry (to appear in the month of September 2018):
‘Do not count the days; make the days count.’
Muhammad Ali. Professional Boxer. Audacious. Charismatic. A winner in the ring.
But even when you have won it all, life throws you a few more punches.
Yes, his name opened doors and wealth, but the bombastic man of his younger years was humbled in later life, and following retirement, he dedicated himself increasingly to charitable work. Parkinson’s was already taking hold.
He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the highest honour the USA can bestow. He died in June 2016, aged 74.
Now the news is about boxing helping dementia sufferers.
So what does this mean for freedom? Does getting battered around the head spell freedom and choice? One would say yes; a boxer is free to take such risks. When the consequences deal you a fatal blow as a result, when do you lose your freedom? Is it when you have been reduced to a shadow of your former self, a normal human being, and have to rely on others? Muhammad Ali likely had plenty of resources to ensure his final days would help him on his final journey.
We tend to think of freedom in political terms. It is hard to remove freedom in healthcare from politics. Think NHS reform, among others. Freedom in a healthcare environment means more to the individuals and families when they have life-limiting illnesses and need the care of volunteer-run hospices such as Iain Rennie Grove.
The NHS gives patients the rights to make choices about different aspects of the care they receive, from the different treatment options available. How these are chosen is individual, although for those with life threatening or limiting illnesses this choice will fall on family members.
I quote the following:
‘In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties’.
Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Philosopher
September is World Alzheimer’s Month.