“Visit to the McKean Rehabilitation Center”
Today our group had the opportunity to visit the McKean Rehabilitation Center located outside of Chang Mai (Northern Thailand), the city where we will be staying for the next couple of days. The McKean Rehabilitation Center is currently for people with many kinds of physical disabilities and was once sectioned off for leprosy patients. Throughout this visit we learned the true nature of leprosy and I had an awakening experience with a limbless patient at this clinic.
Our tour began by watching a short film about the history of the McKean Rehabilitation Center. After watching the informative video we walked around the main facility to see some historical pictures and have some questions answered about leprosy. Our tour guide told us not to worry about leprosy. Everyone at McKean with leprosy is in some stage of treatment, he stated. Even though leprosy is indeed an infectious disease, for 96% of the population it is nearly impossible to become infected. The remaining 4% tend not to have congenital immunity.
When we were finished walking around the main facility and getting questions answered we moved on to an arts and crafts workshop where products were being made by some of the patients of the hospital. It was amazing to see some of the art that these patients created. One patient in particular had no fingers on either hand due to leprosy but created beautiful paintings of the landscape in Thailand. All the money from items purchased at this store went to the McKean budget. We learned that the government does supply money to these facilities but it's very minimal; most of the budget comes from the protestant church of Christ and donations.
As we kept touring the facilities we got to see the independent housing facilities, which consisted of small white houses. When we reached the dependent living facility, we were allowed to walk around the rooms and talk to the patients. A group of my classmates and I walked into a room and talked to a man with no limbs or pelvis. This was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences for me. I was amazed to see a smile on this man’s face despite what had happened to him. Our tour guide translated for us as he spoke to us about his story: he had once been a farmer but had a tragic accident that caused him to lose his lower extremities. His family as a result dropped him off under a tree in front of the McKean Rehabilitation Center. After hearing this I came to be more appreciative of what I have. Later on, our tour guide explained to us that it’s difficult for low-income families to take care of the elderly or sick due to time and financial restrictions. Most patients at McKean get dropped off and rarely see their families again.
After touring the facilities I came to understand that even though McKean may not have had the most advanced technological tools or medicine to treat their patients, everyone worked with their hearts aiming to inspire confidence and give meaning to the lives of these patients. This was truly a humbling experience!