Meera’s family lives amongst the rolling hills of the Aravali Range that runs across northern India. It is a harsh land that constantly challenges all who live here. But, it is those who live here that are its greatest resource. As a young girl, Meera helped her family get through one of the worst droughts in recent memory. A few years of failed monsoons meant that she had to walk long distances just to fetch drinking water for her household.
A hike through a mountain pass to a nearby grazing pasture with her goats was a daily event. When at home, Meera helped to cook, clean and tend to her younger siblings. She shared these duties with her parents who were also in the midst of rebuilding their home. You would think that life couldn’t be much harder for a girl that was just 11 years old. But, Meera was actually very sick.
On her left shoulder at the base of her neck was an open, infected wound the size of her own hand. A scaly, inflamed section of skin reached under her throat and across her collar bones to a swollen mass just above her right shoulder. As painful as this was, Meera never complained. Her condition was originally misdiagnosed so the prescribed treatment was ineffective. As her symptoms worsened Meera’s mother asked for my help to get Meera appropriate treatment.
Together we went to a government hospital where she was diagnosed with cutaneous (skin) tuberculosis or Scrofula. The swollen mass on Meera’s neck was an infected lymph node. The wound on her left shoulder was an infected lymph node that had ruptured. Immediate treatment required regular cleaning and dressing of the open wound to rid the wound of infection and promote healing. I took care of this.
The treatment for tuberculosis is a cocktail of antibiotics taken over a six month period. That journey started with a search to find the nurse that could supply and administer these drugs. Guided by villagers who had seen the nurse on her rounds that day we caught up to her as she finished her work in a nearby village hamlet. Meera’s treatment started immediately. The nurse and Meera’s father made a plan to ensure continuity in the treatment for the next 6 months.
Six months is a long time to heal for someone so young. I can still picture the day when Meera came running to me to tell me that she had finished her treatment and was symptom free. She was the happiest girl in the village. Meera, her family and I have remained good friends over the years. Meera is an adult now. The last time I saw her she was smiling again. That was at her wedding. The young woman smiling in the green sari is Meera.