“Every patient is a life story, and we enjoyed helping them all.” – Dr. Ruth.
Dr. Ruth Pfau (9th September 1929 – 10th August 2017) died in Karachi, a shining beacon of benevolence and dedication to leprosy patients. She had been undergoing treatment at the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center for the last two weeks and passed on to the great beyond during surgery at 12:30 am on Wednesday, as per the leprosy Center. Soon after her death, tributes came gushing in for the German nun who spent over half a century in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan battling leprosy.
What is Hansen’s Disease?
Hansen’s disease, also called leprosy, is an infection caused by a slow-growing microorganism known as Mycobacterium leprae. It can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose called nasal mucosa. With early diagnosing and treatment, the disease may be cured. People with Hansen’s disease can continue to work and lead a vibrant life throughout and after treatment.
Leprosy was once feared as an extraordinarily contagious and devastating disease, but currently, we all know it does not spread quickly, and treatment is incredibly effective. However, if left untreated, the nerve damage may disable hands and feet, paralysis, and visual disorder.
Dr. Ruth’s Services
Dr. Ruth was a German-Pakistani nun who had devoted the last 50 years of life to fighting leprosy in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In 1960, Ruth decided & dedicated the rest of her life to the people of Pakistan and their fight against leprosy outbreaks. She came to Karachi and visited a leprosy colony on ‘McLeod Road’ behind the city railway station. Here, she decided that the care of patients would be her life’s job.
She started with medical treatment for the leprosy patients in a hut in this slum quarter. The ‘Marie Adelaide leprosy Centre’ was based on welfare work for leprosy patients. A leprosy Clinic was bought in April 1963, and patients from all over Karachi, Pakistan, and even from Afghanistan came for treatment. Since that time, the work grew fast, and few treatment centers were established in Karachi and Pakistan; coaching for paramedical staff and social workers who were given health education started to get over prejudices and fear.
Dr. Pfau visited the remote areas of Pakistan where there were no medical facilities for leprosy patients. She also collected donations in Germany and Pakistan and then co-operated with hospitals in Rawalpindi and Karachi. It was a journey that she enjoyed tremendously because a remarkable difference in the patients’ condition began to emerge over time. In 1996, the World Health Organization declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to have controlled leprosy.
Pride Of Pakistan-Hailed As Mother Teresa
- Dr. Ruth Pfau was among the recipients of civilian awards at President’s House on Pakistan Day 23rd March 1989. In recognition of her service to Pakistan, she was awarded Pakistani citizenship in 1988.
- On 9th September 1999, Archbishop Simeon Anthony Pereira of Karachi celebrated a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to celebrate Sr. Pfau’s 70th birthday.
- Dr. Pfau received the Hilal-e-Pakistan award for her work with leprosy patients.
- Speaking at a function in Islamabad on 30th January 2000, to mark the 47th World leprosy Day, President Rafiq Tarar praised her, who built up the National leprosy management Program in Pakistan, for working not just for those afflicted with leprosy, however also for those with TB.
- On 14th August 2010, the President of Pakistan awarded the very high civil award of Nishan-e-Quaid-e-Azam to Dr. Ruth for her contributions.
Marham is highly honored for her exemplary services. She will remain in our hearts as a shining symbol in the times ahead. Her charitable work makes one question one’s commitment to humankind. Is it enough to leave behind our homes and worldly comforts? While that will be tough to answer, what can be done is to be grateful for those who have, without question, showed us that love for humanity thrives victorious.