Lucky Jay – latest news
Prosthetic hand for Jay
Jay's prosthetic hand was completed last week. Over the last month, my team has taken him several times to the hospital in Kathmandu to fit and adjust the new device. Jay is overjoyed and of course we celebrated this day together. He is coping well with the prosthesis and we are very happy to be able to give him another piece of independence!
Read Jay's full story:
The screams of a desperate mother disrupt the silence of an icy cold winter night in the mountains of Mugu. In no time the neighbours gathered in front of the Karkis' house. What had just happened? The new born baby of the family, a small boy, the pride of his parents, screamed loudly until suddenly he fell silent. When the father stepped out trembling from shock, the village learned of the tragic accident that had just happened.
Families in Mugu do not have heating. In the evenings the cold creeps through the masonry walls. The only source of warmth and light is an open fire in the middle of the room. In order to help the baby sleep despite the harsh temperatures, his mother put him on a blanket next to the fireplace and did her housework. Unnoticed, the baby rolled to the side right into the blazing flames. In sheer panic his mother quickly pulled him out of the fire. Thanks to her quick reaction his life was saved, but his head, the right side of his torso, and especially his right hand were completely burnt. The little boy was still breathing, but had fallen unconscious in pain.
This tragedy occurred almost 10 years ago. At that time, there was no hospital they could turn to, even for first aid. The hastily summoned shaman waved off and said he could not handle such severe burns. The Karkis knew that they needed to reach the lowlands as quickly as possible, but they did not have the financial resources to cover any medical help. The other villagers willingly helped out and lent some money to the Karkis to travel to Palpa, which had a clinic specialised on burn injuries.
Full of fear and concern for her son, they embarked on the long and arduous journey with the baby, who was non-stop crying in pain. At only six months Jay (also known as Jaya) had to stay in hospital in Palpa for many weeks. The doctors tried their best, but they could not save the little one's hand and eventually decided to amputate it. Back in Mugu, the couple sold their entire property to pay back at least a part of the borrowed money and the father went to India to work as a unskilled labourer - until today. Most of his wages he sends home to settle the family’s debt. They are now a completely impoverished family. Once a year, he returns home to Mugu to see his family.
Meanwhile, Jay grew up to become an outsider everywhere he went. The situation of disabled children high up in the mountains, where physical fitness is of utmost importance, is deplorable. They are bullied and neglected. Not only by their community, but very often also by their own family. Instead of supporting and encouraging a disabled child, people constantly remind them of their bad fortune pointing out that they may never be able to work and make a living for themselves. As a result, many of these children experience severe mental health issues in addition to the physical suffering.
Jay was the third child in his family, the first and only son after his mother had already had two daughters. Once the Karkis were so happy about his birth, because for Hindus it is very important to have at least one son. Only a son would be allowed to light the parents’ cremation fire, which allows the souls of the deceased to receive salvation. In addition, a male offspring would usually take care of them during retirement whilst daughters marry and enter into a new family. After the accident, Jay's parents feared that he could no longer fulfil these expectations. So, he decided to father another son. Yet, fate brought them another girl and only their fifth child was a boy again.
Our team in Mugu met Jay about a year ago. His misfortune and everyday hardship affected all of us. In his village he was constantly blamed for the poverty of his family and hence, he was filled with guilt. We immediately decided to support him. Jay did not go to school, so we admitted him into our Back to Life sponsorship programme.
To provide him with better opportunities, we enrolled him at a school in the district capital Gamgadhi, which also offered boarding facilities. With a good education he would hopefully be able to lead a self-determined life. However, our plans did not work out. Again he was bullied and excluded by his classmates. Nobody wanted to play with him and the other children constantly teased him especially during meal times. Since his right hand is amputated, he must do everything – including eating food – with his left hand. Yet, this one is considered impure because it is usually used to clean oneself after using the toilet as there is no toilet paper up in the mountains. In addition the bald spot on his head, a result of the burn injuries, was a constant source of ridicule.
Again and again Jay ran away and sought refuge in our team office in Gamgadhi. Finally, we decided to bring him to Kathmandu. Here in the capital of Nepal, people are more open-minded and life is much more modern. And shortly after his arrival we knew that this was the right decision. Jay blossomed at his new boarding school, which he really enjoys and where he feels very comfortable. That is not only due to the beautiful and child-friendly environment, but mainly because he finally found some friends who already taught him to play football. Here, he no longer is an outsider and the relief and happiness about this big change is written all over his face. In class, Jay is so motivated that he could already skip two classes and is now joined by students that are actually his age. The school principal is impressed by Jay's achievements and work ethic. When the boy has free time, he likes to play chess and casually beats any of his classmates.
Recently, my team took Jay to a hospital in Kathmandu to arrange for a hand prosthesis. This new device has now been fitted. Jay is overjoyed with his new hand and we are very happy to help him moving towards a normal life!