With the help of health staff and volunteers, the condition of a schizophrenic patient in Phanas has improved

The solitary house that sits atop the Mongar-Trashigang highway in Phanas village in Ngatsang is filled with laughter.

The reason is a 37-year-old mentally ill patient, Tshering Lhamo.

For the past 23 years, has been a constant struggle between hope and despair for Tshering Lhamo’s mother Yeshey Seldon. The 56-year-old farmer cannot remember the last time she shared a merry moment with her ailing daughter.

Tshering Lhamo has shown signs of improvement in the last few months. She is no longer caged in her small makeshift cabin built adjacent to the family kitchen.

Today, she is in their living room wrapped in blankets. Her mother hovers around nursing her every movement.

In a croaky voice Tshering Lhamo requests to go to the toilet. The mother gently helps her stand and escorts her to the toilet outside the house. “Her condition has improved a lot since she started receiving the monthly injections,” said Yeshey Seldon.

Except for occasional fits and convulsions, the mother said that her daughter has improved considerably in the past few months. “Although most of the time she’s lying on the floor, she now stays with us in the house.”

In the past, due to her violent and unpredictable behaviour, Tshering Lhamo used to be locked inside the small cabin. Since she damaged anything she laid her hands on, the mother fearing that she might harm herself used to keep the daughter tied.

“She didn’t recognise food from her stool. She used to be drenched in her urine and during menstruation she used to be covered in her own blood,” said the mother. “She used to pull her hair and clothes, which is why we had to tie her up.”

With no signs of improvement Tshering Lhamo was taken off her medication some three years ago. The last time Tshering Lhamo took medicines was in 2014 when the health assistant from Ngatsang BHU took upon himself to help the patient.

“It was the HA sir and the sister from the BHU who helped us during times of difficulties. But since there was no improvements, we stopped giving her the medicines also,” said Yeshey Seldon.

Last July, after an article on Tshering Lhamo’s condition came up in Kuensel, health officials visited the village to check on. She was taken to Mongar hospital where she was admitted for about two weeks.

“Even at the hospital, there was not much improvement. Instead other patients at the hospital were disturbed because of her behaviour,” said Tshering Lhamo’s younger brother Tashi Rabga. “Even against the will of the doctors, my mother had to bring her home.”

A few months later, a voluntary group, All For One, One For All (A11A) visited the village and took Tshering Lhamo to Thimphu where she was admitted at the national referral hospital for another two weeks. “After returning from Thimphu, we noticed drastic improvement in her condition,” said Tashi Rabgay.

Tshering Lhamo who despised any foreign objects on her body had started to wear cloths and slippers. “I could notice the change in her body language,” said the mother. Since then Tshering Lhamo has been living with her mother and brother in the same house.

“Sometimes when she talks to us like a normal person, it feels as if nothing has happened to her,” said Yeshey Seldon. “However, occasionally she get into fits and talks gibberish, and then I realise that my daughter is never going to be the same.”

The mother said that she still gets worried whenever she leaves her alone. “Her unpredictable behaviour gets me worries which is why I can’t go anywhere leaving her alone,” she said. “But things have improved now and we are very grateful to the health staff and the A11A for all their support. I think this is the best my daughter would get and I’ve accepted the fact.”

Meanwhile, Tshering Lhamo can be seen walking around the house with some support from her mother and brother. “It’s cold outside. I wish I could go back to school and study again,” said Tshering Lhamo, as she walks into the kitchen for lunch.

Younten Tshedup |  Ngatsang