Michael's Dispatches

Lahu Skin Disease


4 July 2011
Kandahar, Afghanistan


An email came from Audra Morgan, an American friend in northern Thailand.  Audra writes:

"The Lahu tribe has a repeating genetic flaw that causes skin with no melanin and no oil ducks.  These kids live very painful, short lives.  They are burned by light instantly and most often die of skin cancer in their early 20s.  One of our kids is suffering with this  He has a kind heart and never complains about his pain.

I asked if I could take a picture of him and he said yes but there was so much pain and embarrassment in his eyes, I didn't want to aim the camera at his face.

His face looks like his hands.

We took him back to the village to see his familylast year.  They thought he had an evil spirit and basically shut him up in a bamboo hut for 14 years.  He has 8 siblings.  When we walked up to the family hut I saw his youngest sister, about 2 years old.  She was holding her fingers apart.  (This condition hurts when skin touches skin.)  The skin was already peeling off her little eye-lids.

It's possible we will get her this year.  She stands a chance at a semi-normal life if we can get her early enough.

This is what I love/hate about my job.  It's the kind of work that rips your heart out and also makes it worth waking up in the morning."

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joe · 10 years ago
    God bless those afflicted
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Laughlin · 10 years ago
    the news just said CSM Jeffrey Mellinger is retiring today, did you know ?
    -Mark, from Houston
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rudy · 10 years ago
    Ask the Lord to heal these people - ask Him to raise up geneticists and those skilled in the design of pharmacological aids to identify and eradicate all causes of pain and suffering - Jesus, son of David, hear our prayers.

    God bless you, Yon. You have a great heart, man.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tracy · 10 years ago
    "Happy Indepedence Day" Michael,

    A heart-felt thank you to you and all our troopers! We think of you all daily. We believe in you and the mission.
    Our hearts go out to the people of the Lahu Tribe who suffer from that dreaded disease. Thank you Audra for your excellent work to ease the pain and trauma!
    With love,

    The Youngs

    Northern California
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tony · 10 years ago
    Dear Audra,

    Where about in North Thailand are you? Are you working for any particular organization?

    I live in Bangkok and am quite interested in getting involved if possible.

    Please contact me. Tonybish@me.com

    And Michael, Keep it up!

    All the best.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Violette · 10 years ago
    My heart feels like under a hood this fourth of July,don't know exactly why .
    Any way, HAPPY FOURTH to all the great Folks so far away in the wide wild world,doing the best they can for others.
    May your efforts not be in vain .
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Andy S · 10 years ago
    Sounds like these folks have a form of Xeroderma pigmentosa (look it up on Wiki). Genetic defect in DNA repair. Comes in several varients. There are more rare genetic disorders that mimic. Should be real easy to make definitive diagnosis on subjects with small amount of DNA (Blood, skin etc). If they dont' reallly know the underlying disease (molecular mechanism), finding out would at least give them access to what ever is known about the exact process these folks are dealing with.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Audra · 10 years ago
    I read the Wiki info and I think you're right.
    I will read more about it tonight so maybe we can give him a little relief. We are an orphanage and cannot afford DNA testing, but I will inquire at the university in Chiang Mai to see if they will help us out.

    Thanks for responding and thanks to the well-wishers who posted comments here.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Andy S · 10 years ago
    Audra: DNA testing is cheap if you know what you are looking for. Send me an email with an way I can respond to you privately rather than on this comment board. A. Saxon, MD Professor of Medicine, UCLA Med School, LA, CA.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Audra · 10 years ago
    I'll just give you mine since I don't know how to find yours. ;-)
    Thanks again,
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dialurdoctor · 10 years ago
    Thanks for sharing it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Syeda-Basri · 7 years ago
    Skin disease is often obvious and very visible to others. Those who suffer from skin diseases have not only to cope with the effects of their disease but also the reaction of others to their condition. There is stigma attached to a wide range of skin diseases, affecting many millions of people, just as there is for mental illness and sexually-transmitted infections. syeda basri :zzz

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