Ana, a life in the hospital

Ana was born in Monção – Viana do Castelo, in 1935. She lived with her mother in a house without a bathroom and without piped water and basic sanitation. She did not know her father, who had died of leprosy. The mother never had symptoms.


Ana started having symptoms at the age of 12. It was tracked in August 1949, and at the time it already had lesions on the cheekbones, alopecia on the eyebrows, leproma on the cheekbones and infiltration on the supraciliary, spots on the buttocks and leproma on the arms, ulcers on the hands, elbow and legs and giant leproma on the knees. After the tests, the diagnosis confirmed the type – lepromatous leprosy, the most widespread form of leprosy disease.


She started to be accompanied at home and received sulfone dragees (Diasona), sent through the Health Sub-Delegate of Monção.

In July 1950, the results of the clinical tests showed a small regression but the laboratory tests revealed bacilli in the mucus and skin, his condition and type of leprosy eventually motivated the hospitalization. On February 25, 1952 she was transported by ambulance from home to the Hospital. She was thus one of the 20 inpatients in the Viana do Castelo district until December 1952.


Ana was hospitalized on the 1st floor of the Hospital and at just 16 years old, it was natural to feel alone and scared. The advanced state of the disease required a wide range of care and therefore remained in the hospital building for several years. The view from the window was beautiful. Gardens carved of boxwood and flowers and a long orange grove.


In 1956, the revision form stated that Ana had total madarosis, a slightly collapsed nasal pyramid, macules on the face, upper limbs, infiltrations in the ears, hypoesthesias on the cubital rim and macules and hard lesions on the legs. In the following years, ulcers also appeared, with recurrent complaints of weight loss, headache and nausea. At the same time, he started treatments for fibropapillomas on the face and limbs.


Almost four years after entering the hospital, Ana’s smear microscopes became negative. The relative stabilization of his state allowed between 1959 and 1962 to obtain authorization to take several 30-day leave and go home. 


Ana grew up and became an adult at the Hospital, where she met Joaquim, who was also interned at the Hospital. They ended up getting married, and in 1977 they already lived in a family center. They never had children.


The lack of staff at the Hospital, and the initiative to develop ergotherapy allowed that, meeting some conditions, several interned patients could provide paid service internally. Therefore, Ana and Joaquim appear on the scales of the hospital’s dressing sector. Joaquim even became a nursing assistant.

Integrated in this community, they participated in religious celebrations and in other play therapy activities that Social Work promoted.
Their health was being monitored. Ana’s clinical records revealed the gradual healing of ulcers, but they also registered headache, weight loss, nasal obstruction and hoarseness, episodes of fever and marked traces of albumin in the urine, which indicated visceral impairment, especially hepatic and renal. In addition to sulphonotherapy, adjustments were made to the diet (increased milk and cow meat, for example), and it was possible to follow the clinical evolution in the year 1980 when the histological study of a skin sample indicated problems such as hyperkeratosis, papillomatosis, keratoacanthoma.

He would live in the Hospital until his death, being part of the group of ex-patients who remained there by option after the conversion to the Rehabilitation Medicine Center.

(Based on documents from the HCRP Archive. Research and writing by Cristina Nogueira – CulturAge)