Squint: My Journey with Leprosy

By José P. Ramirez, Jr.
Foreword by James Carville

How a sufferer of Hansen’s disease emerged from isolation and devoted his life to advocacy

Squint: My Journey with Leprosy details the road Jose traveled from the point of diagnosis with Hansen’s disease until his mother’s death. These two events are significant for Jose as it was his mother who, in spite of blaming herself for some unknown sins that caused the leprosy bacillus to grow inside his body, still had the compassion to invite his girlfriend to accompany him to Carville, Louisiana on February 24, 1968. Additionally, it was his mother’s strength that guided the Ramirez family through many dark roads ending in the celebration of her life as her soul moved on to meet her husband in heaven.

Lying in a hospital bed, José P. Ramirez, Jr. (b. 1948) almost lost everything because of a misunderstood disease. When the health department doctor gave him the Handbook for Persons with Leprosy, Ramirez learned his fate. Such a diagnosis in 1968 meant exile and hospitalization in the only leprosarium in the continental United States–Carville, Louisiana, 750 miles from his home in Laredo, Texas.

In Squint: My Journey with Leprosy, Ramirez recalls being taken from his family in a hearse and thrown into a world filled with fear. He and his loved ones struggled against the stigma associated with the term “leper” and against beliefs that the disease was a punishment from God, that his illness was highly communicable, and that persons with Hansen’s disease had to be banished from their communities.

His disease not only meant separation from the girlfriend who would later become his wife, but also a derailment of all life’s goals. In his struggle Ramirez overcame barriers both real and imagined and eventually became an international advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities. In Squint, titled for the sliver of a window through which persons with leprosy in medieval times were allowed to view Mass but not participate, Ramirez tells a story of love and perseverance over incredible odds.

José P. Ramirez, Jr., is a social worker in Houston, Texas. He has written articles about Hansen’s disease for the Houston Chronicle, the Star Magazine, the National Association of Social Workers Newsletter, and other publications.

~ University Press of Mississippi

The publisher, University Press of Mississippi, has focused on choosing writings that address significant occurrences in what is referred to in the United States as the South. This book not only covers important events in the South, but also expands to present a perspective that is international. Leprosy, with it’s history that predates biblical times and is shrouded in myths that are imbedded in the minds of many in the 21st century, is a powerful force that overrides common sense.

January 24, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Uncategorized | No comment

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