My grandmother used to tell us
bedtime stories. One rainy night, she stated to tell us about a village of
people who were very happy people. She told us that their village had lots and
lots of greenery and the people had no worries on their minds. Until a man had a
terrible pimple on his hand which swelled rapidly until it was the size of a
grape. The people of the village tried many of their herbal recipes which were
none but useful. As the days progressed the man’s condition got worse. The
pimple now covered most of his fingers. The people were thinking about banishing
him from the village, when another man had the same disease. The wound on the
second man was swelling and it stank very badly. The chiefs of the village
decided to throw them into a room very far away from the village.
The people thought this disease was over but in reality it was far from over.
Two or three more people suffered the same disease and they were banished, too.
At this time a roll of thunder struck the sky and the lightning was seen from
the windows of our room. My grandmother continued after a moment’s silence. The
people heard a rumor that a beautiful young lady was coming from abroad to treat
the diseased people. The people thought that the lady was insane because the
people of the village considered the people inside the old shack to be beyond
recovery. The lady arrived and asked the villagers to lead her to the people.
The people sat huddled in a corner holding their damaged hands. The lady took
the banished people into a room to treat them. A few hours later the people
arrived from inside looking better than ever and obviously cured.
It turned out that the lady was Dr. Ruth Pfau. Pfau was born in Leipzig,
Germany, on 9 September 1929. She had four sisters and one brother. Her home was
destroyed by bombing during World War II. Following the post-war Soviet
occupation of East Germany she escaped to West Germany along with her family,
and chose medicine as her future career. During the 1950s, she studied medicine
at the University of Mainz.
She joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a Catholic order, which later
sent her to southern India; however, a visa issue meant she became stuck in
Karachi. She travelled to various parts of Pakistan and across the border to
Afghanistan to rescue patients who were abandoned by their families or locked in
small rooms for a lifetime.
Early morning on 10 August 2017, Pfau died at the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi
after being admitted there on 4 August 2017. She was put on a ventilator after
her condition worsened on 6 August. Pfau had been dealing with several health
problems due to her advancing age, including heart disease, for which she has
been undergoing treatment for several years.