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Gladys lives Graham’s dream

Baripada, Sept. 15: Apart from her daily prayer sessions, if anything drives Gladys Staines, it is the leprosy hospital that she plans to build in memory of her husband Graham Staines.

Even as she goes through her daily chores supervising the construction of a 10-bed outpatient department near her residence, she remains preoccupied with the proposed 40-bed referral hospital for leprosy patients to be located inside the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home on the outskirts of Baripada town.

Now, only a signboard bearing Graham Staines Memorial Hospital exists.

Gladys hopes to start building the hospital soon. “The whole aim is to give leprosy patients a life of dignity,” she said.

A dream project of her husband, the reconstructive surgery hospital will correct the flaws the mycobacterium lepra induces in a patient’s central nervous system.

Mayurbhanj district has a staggering leprosy rate of seven per 1,000 people. As the deadly bacteria plays havoc with the patients’ nervous system, their limbs go numb and tend to waste away. In such cases, surgery is the only remedy.

The nearest such hospital is at Purulia in Bengal, about 200 km away, and cannot be afforded by many patients.

But the road to the proposed hospital is not well-paved. Though Gladys hopes that the memorial hospital will be built by next year, more than a “couple of crores” that it needs to become functional, it’s the land that has been giving her sleepless nights.

Initially, the authorities wanted to repossess the land gifted by the erstwhile Maharaja to the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home 102 years ago.

Although she has met the president, chief minister Naveen Patnaik and officials, the dispute has not been resolved.

Sources said the officials are insisting on “documentary proof about a part of the land” to avoid repossession.

Gladys insisted that the local administration is helping her in getting the land. Funds are coming in as individual donations from Australia, Staines’ home country, and elsewhere.

The hospital will have a full-time doctor, physiotherapists and technicians. Besides offering subsidised surgical treatment, specialised ulcer care will be provided as leprosy patients get constant ulcers because of the anaesthesia that has to be applied to their hands.

For general patients, the hospital will provide medical help for diseases like malaria, endemic to the region. “The hospital is something we are looking forward to. With Gladys, the hospital would be surely better than the hospitals we have here,” said Pradip Mohanty, a Baripada-based lawyer.

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