Unisha, 13, lives in Biratnagar, Nepal. Born without her right leg, she’s been autonomous for nearly a decade with support from Humanity & Inclusion’s partners.
Unisha lives with her parents and paternal grandmother in a three-room house surrounded by rice fields in Nepal’s southern plain called Terai region. An only child, she was born with just one leg due to a congenital disease called limb agenesis.
Unisha’s parents were anxious about her future. They feared that she would never be independent; that she wouldn’t be able to go to school or have a social life and that she would suffer from being stigmatized. Also, because one of her parents had to stay at home to look after her, their income was reduced. The challenges and worries for her family were considerable, but Unisha's parents didn’t give up and were there for each other.
“People blamed me for giving birth to a child with just one leg,” says Anita, Unisha's mother. “My husband is the only one who has always supported me. But I never gave up and I promised myself that one day my daughter would walk, whatever it took.”
A door opens
Unisha was 4 years old when her parents heard through local outreach teams about the HI-supported rehabilitation center in Biratnagar, only a few miles from their home.
With this news, a door opened up for them and they seized the opportunity it provided. They took Unisha to the center where they met the local teams of prosthetic technicians and physical therapists. They were told what the center could offer Unisha: a new artificial limb every two years (or more often if necessary), long-term support and monthly physical therapy sessions.
“Fortunately, we met Ambika, an orthotics and prosthetics technician working with HI’s partner,” Anika says. “She has been a vital support for us, especially for me. It would have been a bleak existence for my daughter if we hadn’t met Ambika."
A few months after this first meeting, Unisha received her first artificial leg. Since then, she has visited the center every three months. Ambika, who has worked with Unisha from the beginning, adapts her artificial limb to her growth and shows her new exercises to do every day to improve her physical condition.
“I’ve known Unisha since she was little,” Ambika explains. "At first, she was reluctant to use the prosthesis. It hurts at first; you have to get used to it. But gradually, after six months or so, she accepted it. After that, she couldn't be parted from it. She didn't even want to take it off to go to bed!"
HI’s local partner, Community Based Rehabilitation Center-Biratnagar takes a holistic approach to patients. Its actions are designed to cover all their needs:
- Establishing contact via the outreach team;
- Thorough rehabilitation assessment to identify the needs and physical therapy sessions;
- Taking measurements of the person’s stump;
- Making the artificial limb or brace with materials available locally;
- Train users to gain confidence on the use of their artificial limb in their own environment;
- Regular follow-up every three months or when needed;
- Replacing the mobility aid every two years or when needed;
- Providing physical therapy sessions.
A future like everybody else
As soon as Unisha received her artificial leg, she enrolled in school. She now goes to studies at a private school 2.5 miles from her home, where all the classes are in English. Every day, the school bus picks her up at 9 a.m. and brings her back at 4:30 p.m.
From day one, she wanted to be like everyone else. A lot of people don't even know that Unisha has an artificial leg.
"She makes a point of doing everything like the others and doesn't accept any special treatment," says Priti, her social studies teacher. "I’d been working here for a few months when Unisha took me aside to show me her leg and told me about her experience. I was so moved it brought tears to my eyes. I hadn't noticed a thing before that. I was touched by her trust in me and I admired her strength of character and lust for life.”
In the future, Unisha would like to do social work so that she too can help others. Her experience has given her this open-mindedness and desire to be useful. Her teachers have no doubts about her future. If she continues like this, she will be able to do whatever she wants.
"Thanks to the rehabilitation care provided by HI, the other children treat my daughter like one of their own because now she can walk and communicate like everyone else,” Anita adds. “It would be a disaster if we didn't have this help."
Unisha has proven that an adjustment can open doors, including the door to a dignified and autonomous future. Every human being should have this opportunity. Yet there are many people in Nepal for whom it is not the case. HI is working to extend its presence and reach in Nepal through its many local partners and its five rehabilitation centers in different parts of the country.