When I was fourteen and living in Louisiana, I was diagnosed with leprosy. By accident actually. I had had a white patch on my knee for a while and just for the heck of it my dad decided to give it a sensitivity test. Leprosy attacks nerves, making them less sensitive. Well, the joke was on me because that test turned into a number of tests, including several skin biopsies. And finally the diagnosis that I was indeed practically the only young white girl on the planet to have leprosy. Believe me, it's pretty unique! A total of two, no three, documentaries about leprosy have been made with my story playing a roll in them. That part of it has been fun! When I was 18 I travelled to Nepal for a documentary there, and when I was 20 I went back to the States (where I was originally diagnosed) for a documentary there. Not bad!
It was stressful having leprosy in the States though. I had many worried moments because there was such a taboe around it. My best friend at that time knew about it, also because her father was our doctor and worked in the same leprosy hospital as my dad did at that time. I had panicked moments when I had bandages from the skin biopsies and was worried people would ask what that was for. I couldn't lie, I really couldn't! So I just prayed and prayed nobody would ask. Nobody did either!
I think that was the biggest problem. Not the leprosy itself but the tremendous amount of ignorance that surrounds it. And the total panic that americans can get into sometime. Yes, I am discriminating, but really the reactions to us living and working at the leprosy hospital were just aweful in their stupidity. It even went so far that some of the nuns working in the hospital felt that I should be exempt from swimming in the swimming pool. (the chances of catching leprosy like that are totally nihil). So I spent the month september not swimming and telling people that I prefered reading instead. A vague untruth that I only just managed to tell.
All in all it's a strange time to look back on.

2 reacties:

Lise said...

Boy do I remember that, us tripsing away to the pool leaving you behind with your books...

Anonymous said...

Dear Marit,
On furlough in Holland I have the possibility to read without technical interruptions your blogs and download pictures etc.
There are some minor 'misconceptions' about leprosy in the blog which we will discuss next time. Thanks for the 'blog'introduction yesterday.
With my love, DAD

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