Contributor: Pearl Weena Sabido, MD
Juan, a pedicab driver, was diagnosed with leprosy (Hansen’s disease). He has since lost his home, been abandoned by his wife, and even had his own parents turn their backs on him.
It began as a reddish, numb swelling on the top of his left foot which soon worsened until his foot ended up looking like a sausage and lesions began to appear on his face and ears. After a few months, he decided to consult at the Dermatology Clinic of Philippine General Hospital where he was eventually diagnosed with Hansen’s disease.
He bitterly recounts how his wife left him soon after she learned of his disease. She was with him when the diagnosis was revealed and the treatable nature of the disease was explained to them. “Parang di nya siguro pinakinggan, parang kaplastikan lang siguro sinasagot nya sa duktor… mga wala pa isang buwan, bigla na lang sya nawala…” (Perhaps she wasn’t paying attention, or perhaps she was pretending to understand… But after a month, she was gone.)
Despite having been adequately treated with Multi-Drug Therapy since then, he continues to agonize through the insecurity that the disease’s physical and psychological impact has imprinted on him. He continues to be estranged from his parents and his ex-wife, and would practically be homeless if not for the pedicab where he has been sleeping away many a cold night. Needless to say, he has thought about ending his life at several points in the past.
Yet he carries on, largely through the social and emotional support that he derives from the Philippine Leprosy Mission (PLM) as well as his daughter’s love. He also feels very grateful to the PLM for having supported his daughter through college under the Educational Assistance Program.
He says, “Malaki ang utang na loob ko… dahil tinulungan nila ako, kahit papano, napa-aral nila yung anak ko…” (I am extremely indebted [to the PLM]… because they helped send my child to school.).
Leprosy took away so much from Juan yet he never lost hope because of his daughter’s love, the care of his doctors, and support from the Philippine Leprosy Mission.
YOU CAN HELP Juan and many other leprosy-affected Filipinos through the Philippine Leprosy Mission.
Pearl Weena Sabido is a volunteer writer of the Philippine Leprosy Mission. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and completed her dermatology residency training at the St. Luke’s Medical Center, Metro Manila.