Bethesda Leprosy Hospital has completed yet another year in its journey of serving leprosy and AIDS patients in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, impacting many lives. Many patients who entered its portals with grief stricken faces returned with confidence of having better health. Some went back with the newly found joy of having Jesus in their hearts. The hospital was founded by Mr J M Boyd, a British missionary, with the sole aim of serving leprosy patients to alleviate their pain and suffering, and to bring them to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through medical ministry. Bethesda continued this good work through these 87 years bringing glory to the Lord under the leadership of many men and women of God, mainly from the UK. Compelled by the love of Christ, Dr Pring, Dr & Mrs E S Short, Miss Hampton, Mr C H Burr, Miss Osborne, Miss S M Waite (now Mrs Tyler), Miss Whitehurst (now Mrs Steggles), Dr & Mrs Ben Walkey and others served the patients with great sacrifice and commitment.
Later, in 1983, the Lord laid the mantle on Mr & Mrs Satyanarayana who strove day in and day out and continued the good work, keeping the high standards of their predecessors. During their tenure the Lord put the idea of serving HIV/AIDS patients in the minds of members of the management. After much prayer, trusting that it was Gods will, a ward to serve HIV patients was opened in early 2000. Knowing not where to start nor how to go about the new work, Bethesda took a step forward and amazingly the Lord led the hospital in a wonderful way. Initially all the staff were so reluctant to serve, having so many misconceptions about the disease. The Lord brought a great awakening in the minds and hearts of staff, and the training and awareness programs helped. Gradually, all the staff started serving the patients with Christs mind, and over these 10 years Bethesda has grown to be one of the best centres providing excellent care for HIV/AIDS patients. With no proper cure available though, it is a sad situation - HIV/AIDS will stay in the communities for many years to come. Bethesda brings comfort to these unfortunate patients and children in His gracious Name, thus giving us opportunity to show His love and to share the good news of salvation. We praise Him for this wonderful privilege.
Bethesda continues to provide maternity services to HIV positive women. This year 56 babies were born to mothers of which 52 were delivered by Caesarean section and 4 delivered normally. The mother and the child are provided with prophylactic treatment and the babies with food supplement to avoid breast feeding. Dr Paul Mathew and his team do remarkably well in tending to the needs of mothers and babies.
Bethesda continues to receive a large number of leprosy patients with wounds, reactions and other general complications. New cases of leprosy are very few in number. We are working towards a decrease in the number of new deformities by constant monitoring of the nerve function of the patients and trying to avoid recurrence of ulcers by teaching self-care techniques. 3,789 leprosy patients visited our outpatient department last year with various problems; 948 patients were treated as inpatients; 22 reconstructive operations were performed on patients with deformities. One encouraging feature this year was that the government gave an incentive of IRs. 5,000 to each patient who underwent an operation, thus being given help with their sustenance for the period in which they lost work. Dr D Vijaya Kumar, our specialist surgeon, continues to visit the hospital four times a year to perform these surgeries. Dr D S Murthy who came to Bethesda for many years to offer eye treatment to leprosy patients is now very sick and confined to bed. We are missing him greatly. Dr V Baburao, Dr Mahesh and Dr Paul Mathew, with the help of the staff, did their best in serving the patients with the available facilities. Many patients were touched by the love they received from the staff.
Bethesda Special School
Started in 1935 with the aim of educating children suffering from leprosy, hundreds of children were immensely benefited by the services of the school all these years. It was recognised by the government of Andhra Pradesh in 1944. It was upgraded as an upper primary school later. We have six teachers working in the school. They are Christians and some of them are actively involved in student ministry. The school is accommodated in a spacious building with adequate furniture, a computer lab and a science laboratory.