Wednesday, December 07, 2005


After my visit to Wati, I headed for the rubbish tip. Leper Iwan was back from visiting his mother in distant Karawang. As had happened on the previous occasion, he was distinctly unwell. He was looking more skeletal than a kampung chicken and parts of his feet were horribly mushy and infected.

We headed straight to the local clinic where the doctor declared that the boy must go to the leper hospital.

The following day, a Saturday, I took Iwan and his granny to the Jakarta suburb of Bekasi, where the leper hospital is located.

"He has to be admitted as an in-patient," said the muscular doctor in his green-walled surgery.

"He needs to have his wounds attended to every day, by a nurse. There’s a lot of puss. And he’s malnourished."

"It’s the best thing," I said to Iwan. "You’ve twice been off to your village without enough medicine. And you look as if you haven’t eaten for a month."

"What about my granny?" said Iwan, eyes watering. "The doctor says she can’t stay in the ward."

"I’ll give her money to stay in a local boarding house," I said, "and I’ll give her money for food." I knew the granny would probably be able to sneak into the hospital any time she wanted. There appeared to be no staff on duty in the latter part of the day.

"There are lots of other children in the ward," said the nurse. "You’ll have plenty of friends. OK?"

"OK," said Iwan.

We walked through the pleasant gardens and met some of Iwan’s fellow patients in a ward for young males. I was struck by the fact that the majority of these patients looked quite normal. Only one boy was limping as badly as Iwan and none was as undernourished. If only Iwan had looked after himself better.