Sadagopan, or Sadan, as his friends called him, was born into a high-caste family where he enjoyed many of the finer things in life. But when he contracted leprosy, he was ousted from every quadrant of civilized existence in India.
Fortunately, he crossed paths with Dr. Paul Brand, a Christian surgeon who would change his life.
Isolation was only one part of Sadan’s tortured reality. He also endured the physical rotting of his body parts, a tell-tale symptom of the dreaded disease. Because lepers lose nerve sensitivity in their extremities, they’re prone to increased injury caused by their inability to feel pain. Thus, small cuts lead to nasty infections, and small fractures become full-blown breaks.
When Sadan stumbled into Dr. Brand’s hospital, the Christian missionary noted that “his fingers were shortened and paralyzed, and his ulcerated feet left damp spots on the floor wherever he stepped. Constant infection in the bones had reduced his feet to half their normal length.”
Infected. Abandoned. That’s how Sadan met Dr. Brand.
The Christian surgeon asked Sadan if he’d be willing to commit himself to a theory of healing held by himself and his medical staff. The Indian eagerly agreed. Knowing that foot deterioration like Sadan’s was caused by the stress of walking on weakened feet without sensation, Dr. Brand immediately put Sadan to bed until his feet completely cleared of sores, blisters, and other wounds. Then, the surgeon fashioned the leper a pair of soft shoes designed to perfectly fit his mangled feet.
The entire staff was swept with anticipation as Sadan used the shoes for a few days without any problems…and then all of them felt the same crushing pain of failure when Sadan’s sores returned.
Dr. Brand cleaned and disinfected Sadan’s feet again. He personally crafted even softer shoes for his friend out of wax, but that didn’t work either. Once again, sores were cleaned, and news shoes were made, this time from plaster. Another failure. Cleaning, and then another pair of shoes made from soft wood. Defeat.
Dr. Brand even traveled to Calcutta and London to learn about the latest polyvinyls and spray-on plastics. Every effort was met with defeat at one point or another. Eventually, whether a few days or a few weeks, Sadan’s feet would begin to bleed as he was literally walking on exposed tissue. For a long time, the patient and the medical team rode a rollercoaster of experimentation, hope, and heartbreak.
Dr. Brand was spending more time studying, cleaning, and nursing Sadan’s feet than his own. He wrote that he knew every vein, every bone, and every muscle in his friend’s feet. But it was during one of the heart-breaking cleanings that Dr. Brand noticed a spot on Sadan’s foot that felt warm. Noting the distinction, the doctor decided to observe that spot carefully. Sure enough, the warm tissue proved to be the next spot of trouble for Sadan. Treating that wound, Dr. Brand wondered if he would be able to predict future trouble by sensing warm tissue in Sadan’s feet.
Miraculously, even though Sadan couldn’t feel his own feet, Dr. Brand’s intense focus allowed him to be able to “feel” the places on Sadan’s feet that needed help. Soft shoes for Sadan were made and worn, while his recovering feet were continually tested for injury. With a little bit of trial and error, Dr. Brand and his team had Sadan walking for months and months at a time without any injury!
At one of Sadan’s last check ups, Dr. Brand noticed that his friend’s feet were cool to the touch, and soft instead of rough and scabby. These were the feet that the surgeon was looking for all along – Sadan was finally on the road to recovery!
Eventually Sadan was able to leave the hospital and return to the city. He married, had children, and worked as a record keeper in a hospital.
None of that would have been possible for Sadan if someone hadn’t taken the time to clean and care for his dirty, infected, leprous feet.
To be clear, it wasn’t medical ingenuity that saved Sadan’s feet. Nor was it a scientific breakthrough. No, it was love that saved Sadan’s feet.
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand. Zondervan, 1980, Pages 49-53.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)