CHAPTER 15: SELF-DEVOTION TO LEPERS
HEROISM and self-sacrifice in the interest of humanity, like that displayed by the brave Father Damien, are, happily for the human race, by no means of unusual occurrence, as is shown by the devotion of the Dominican Sisters at the Leper Hospital, Port of Spain, Trinidad; that of the Franciscan Sisters, from Syracuse, United States, at Molokai, Hawaii; and the Sisters from Montreal, who tend the lepers at Tracadie, New Brunswick.
Dr. MLaren, Nova Scotia, in a paper on "Leprosy in New Brunswick," read before the Medical Society of that Province, says:" In 1868 a community of nuns from the Hotel Dieu, Montreal, most unselfishly took charge of the nursing of the sick, and the work is done faithfully and cheerfully under the Sister-Superior Mother, Saint Jean, and the lepers are much better attended to than formerly. The patients have plenty of freedom with grounds of eleven acres to garden, fish, etc." Maritime Medical News, Halifax, Nova Scotia, July, 1890.
Of another hero, the St. Jamess Gazette, London, September 30, 1891, says :" The last mail from Japan brings news of the death of Father Testevuide, a Japanese Father Damien. He was a member of one of the French congregations, and was sent to work in the Japan mission field. In 1886, during his labours in the interior, he came across a case of leprosy, which so aroused his feelings that he determined to give himself up to the task of ameliorating the condition of Japanese lepers A woman of about thirty years of age, having developed leprosy, was abandoned by her husband, and, as the disease advanced rapidly, she was placed in solitude in a loft over a rice mill. In course of time the ravages of the disease rapidly increased, and she lost her sight. In this condition she was found by Father Testevuide, who was working in the district He visited her constantly and by reading and conversation sought to alleviate her misery; but he soon came to the conclusion that in her then condition she could receive but little relief unless she were placed in a hospital There was no leper hospital in Japan, and the ordinary hospitals were naturally, for the most part, closed to such cases. From that time he devoted all his energies to the establishment and organisation of a leper hospital. Having succeeded in awakening public sympathy in the country, he collected sufficient money to build on the lower slopes of Mount Fujii a hospital which has for some years past been in full working order. His example was followed by some native philanthropists, and there are now three leper hospitals in the country. Father Testevuides labours had undermined his health, which a visit to Hong Kong failed to restore, and he died there on the 3rd of August"
The Moravian Brothers have been sending missionaries of both sexes to live with and work among the lepers in the West Indies, in South Africa, and in Syria, devoting themselves sedulously but unostentatiously to this noble service during the past half-century. They were the pioneers in the effort to ameliorate the condition of these unfortunate sufferers. The Moravians have a leper asylum in Jerusalem, founded, managed, and largely supported by themselves.
The Yorkshire Post (Leeds), January 7, 1892, briefly refers to the death of an Anglo-Indian Father Damien reported from India. The victim was the Rev. W. D. Dalrymple, a Presbyterian missionary, who, having gone on a mission to lepers, contracted the disease some two years ago, and died last month at Rampur Beauleah, Bengal. Although his sufferings were indescribably great, he is said to have borne them with fortitude and resignation, and never once turned from the task he had set himself. Truly the age of martyrs is not past.
In the description of a visit to the Leper Hospital at Maracaibo, Venezuela, Consul Plumacher, of the American Legation, in a recent report to his Government, says :"It was truly a sad sight to see deformed, mutilated trunks, with scarcely vestiges of extremities, seated before the camera; and there was something pathetic in the almost universal request to be supplied with pictures of themselves, which could only be constant reminders of their hopeless afflictions. In addition to the individual photographs, various large groups were taken, with an effect both sad and grotesque. There is one bright spot, however, in the dark picture of misery; this being the devotion and self-abnegation displayed by the near relatives of many of the sufferers, who, although enjoying themselves the blessings of health and strength, cheerfully submit to perpetual imprisonment, in order to minister to the wants of their husbands, mothers, and other relatives, thus alleviating their woes by their companionship and care. Many examples of this are seen to-day on the lazaretto island, and it speaks well for human affection that, even when the loved one has become a loathsome mass, conjugal ties and the claims of blood rise superior to the fear of contagion and the repulsive surroundings."
Miss Kate Marsdens labours among the Maories in New Zealand, and her extraordinary journeys through Russia, and among the wild tribes in remote parts of Siberia, with a view of learning the condition of the outcast lepers in districts where the disease is prevalent, are well known through the reports in the Times and Pall Mall Gazette, which have been extensively copied in English and colonial journals. Miss Marsdens object is to learn by personal observation the condition of the lepers; to discover, if possible, methods of mitigating their sufferings, and to collect funds for the establishment of leper hospitals. Some time ago, Miss Marsden consulted M. Pasteur to see whether inoculation as a cure of the disease might not be resorted to. M. Pasteur held out no hopes of amelioration in that direction, nor did he suggest any other. It does not appear that Miss Marsden has made any inquiries regarding the effect of vaccine inoculation in disseminating the scourge, although, in districts like Dorpat in the Baltic provinces, the lepers are reported to be rapidly increasing, and already form as large a portion of the population as 17 per thousand. The growth of the disease has been co-incident with the development of the Jennerian practice. Miss Marsdens knowledge of the Russian language, and her earnest desire to get at the root of the evil, would enable her to break through official apathy, so obstructive of truthful research, should she be induced to undertake such a mission. It is surely as laudable to arrest one admitted source of the mischief as to prosecute an almost hopeless search for remedies.
Another lady, Mrs. Alice Hayes, has also done much to direct public attention to the neglected condition of the lepers in India, particularly the Europeans and Eurasians of Calcutta, who hide themselves and their sufferings from the public in the large cities, and refuse to consort with native inmates of existing institutions.