Chinnasamy is 55 year old man from a tiny hamlet called Karpanankollai consisting of only 3 houses. Chinnasamy’s occupation was cutting bamboo, which earned him 15,000rs per year.
HEAL workers were asked to visit a sick relative of a woman in Thandayankottai. To get to Chinnasamy’s village requires over three hours of walking. On their way, the HEAL workers came across a group of thin, tired young men hauling something in a blanket. Inside the blanket was Chinnasamy with severely burnt legs. All his muscle and fat had burnt away, and the workers could see straight to his bone in some places. Gangrene had already infected most of his wounds.
All the men would say as to how Chinnasamy had burned his legs was that he had fallen into the fire 3 days ago and he had not been to a hospital. The HEAL workers rushed him to CHAD (Christian Medical College Community Health and Development Centre), where they run a program to prioritize Jawadhi Hills tribal people. After a series of questions, the doctors finally figured out that the burn had happened twenty days ago and that the people with him were his son and wife. The reason for concealing the truth was that Chinnasamy’s family believed that someone without family would be treated better by doctors. However, in actuality, it is the opposite. Someone alone will often be refused treatment at CHAD without a relative there to support them and buy medicines and food. Chad suggested that they go to the government hospital. It then emerged that they had done this, but that the hospital had not given him any treatment, and they had left.
With support from CHAD, Chinnasamy was eventually admitted into CMC, and both of his legs had to be amputated. He stayed at CHAD for 2 months, so the doctors could help clean and dress his wounds daily. HEAL workers visited often and Chinnasamy began to heal and become stronger. He planned get back into shape in order to continue chopping bamboo in order to send his son through college. His son is the first person to attend college from his area.
CHAD eventually ran out of beds, and Chinnasamy to move to the Leprosy ward. They refused. The doctors were frustrated at the apparent prejudice and felt that they had not right to be judgmental, considering they had given him free treatment and he was so in need of further treatment if his legs were to heal well enough to fit a plastic leg for him to walk upright.
Upon further discussion with Chinnasamy and his family it emerged that it wasn’t their direct prejudices that stopped them from staying. If Chinnasamy had stayed in the Leprosy ward the whole family would be socially ostracized from their village; even their children would disown them for having just been there. They were faces with a choice of social isolation or risking the limb not healing and losing the opportunity to walk with a plastic leg. Eventually the doctors were notified, and they let them stay. His legs healed and he was given plastic prosthetics.