Baby, now aged 47, proudly claims to be one of the very first members of the Hansen’s Club of Philippine General Hospital, having been stricken with leprosy back in February 1997. She recalls how she was diagnosed with the disease, which began as a reddish, elevated spot on her arm. Mistaking it for a fungal infection, she tried to treat it with various over-the-counter creams, to no avail.
“Iyak ako ng iyak… para syang ano diba, yung mababasa mo sa bible, yung may ganong sakit, makasalanan. Yun ang inaano ko, anong kasalanan ko?”
It was after several failed self-treatments that she ended up seeking consult at the Philippine General Hospital, where a biopsy was done and led to her subsequent diagnosis with Hansen’s disease.
The world came crashing down on her on the day she was told of her diagnosis.
“Iyak ako ng iyak… para syang ano diba, yung mababasa mo sa bible, yung may ganong sakit, makasalanan. Yun ang inaano ko, anong kasalanan ko?” (“I couldn’t stop crying… in the bible, it says that those who get stricken with leprosy are sinners. I couldn’t help but ask what it was that I could have done wrong.”)
She then recalls going to church to cry her heart out, before finally going home to tell her family about her disease. Fortunately for her, she had the full support of her family. She got even more emotional and social support when she joined the Hansen’s Club, under the wing of the Philippine Leprosy Mission (PLM).
“Sobra suporta talaga ng PLM. Mulat sapul ng sumali ako sa club, nag-aattend din sila, kada meeting andyan sila. Nakasuporta sila,” she says. (“PLM has been giving us tremendous support. From the minute I joined the [Hansen’s] Club, they’ve been there, supporting us.”)
Baby has benefited personally from the support of the PLM through the rag business that she was able to put up with the funds graciously bestowed on her by the PLM. Although this venture was not able to successfully take flight, she remains extremely grateful to this day.
“Sobra suporta talaga ng PLM. Mulat sapul ng sumali ako sa club, nag-aattend din sila, kada meeting andyan sila. Nakasuporta sila,”
Despite having been cured of the disease more than a decade ago, Baby continues to attend the Hansen’s Club meetings to give much-needed support to those currently undergoing treatment. She implores everyone not to spurn those stricken with leprosy, as this is no longer the incurable disease it once was, and, as she puts it, there is now hope for those afflicted with this disease.
Written by Pearl Weena Sabido, MD