In 1951, Wanda Błeńska arrived to Buluba at Lake Victoria in Uganda to the centre for leprosy treatment, where he worked for next 40 years as a physician and laic missionary. For many years she was the only physician in the area taking care over thousands of the leprous patients. At the very beginning, the working conditions were extremely difficult. She made the centre offering a high standard of treatment and caretaking over patients. She founded the training centre for medical assistants in the field of diagnosing and treating leprosy (nowadays, the centre is named her name). She became one of the most important specialists in the world in the field of treating leprosy. Besides her competencies, she won the Ugandans’ hearts with her attitude to patients. She was called the Mother of the Lepers. Her work helped to break social fear of the lepers. She undertook many actions the aim of which was to give them back a feeling of dignity. She examined the lepers without gloves, because she did not want them think she loathed them. She used them only when a wound was open or when she operated on someone. After many years she reminisced:
- “I domesticated my patients with this disease to make a fear of it lesser. Someone has to domesticate with leprosy, as well as with other diseases. These patients are poor. There are always so many people who let them feel the latter are afraid of them… The atmosphere of fear is sometimes created, because fear infects others. But I have always repeated: «Look at me, do I have my fingers crossed or not?». I respected usual hygienic rules. When I examined a patient, I washed my hands after it. I washed them not only after examination of a leper but also after any sick person to show everyone that it is one of physician’s rules”.
- “The patients see, feel that there is someone who understands them, who feels sorry for them. It is extremely important for a patient. All of them are touched with suffering. They wait for someone who can relieve them”.
- “If someone wants to be a good doctor, it is necessary to love one’s patients. It means to give them one’s time, concern, to educate oneself. Much love needs to be put into it… Yes, this is the most important – the attitude towards a patient. This attitude should everywhere be the same. People suffer everywhere, however, they convalescence much faster if they trust their doctor”.
“She did not see in her patients only a disease process which needs to be treated but a whole person with his suffering, internal sensitivity together with a society and family surrounding him. She understood problems the sick have to face and tried to help them in all fields. She was responsible not only for treating leprosy as a contagious disease but also for rehabilitating patients, as well as for surgical procedures improving their appearance and condition, and what is more, for environment surrounding a leper” (dr Norbert Rehlis, doctor, specialist in tropical medicine and international health, co-founder of the Humanitarian Aid Foundation Redemptoris Missio).