(from “The Separating Sickness: Ma’i Ho’oka’awale – Interviews with Exiled Leprosy Patients at Kalaupapa Settlement, Molokai, Hawaii” by Ted Gugelyk and Milton Bloombaum, Ma’i Ho’oka’awale Foundation, Honolulu, HI, 1979)
67 years at Kalaupapa
Why Did It Happen To Us Hawaiians?
They sent me to this place when I was fourteen years old. Like the other patients, they caught me in school. The teacher knew that I was what you call ‘a contact.’ You see, my ohana had leprosy through my father. My father died from this sickness at the old Kakaako Hospital in Honolulu. My brother died from this sickness here at Kalaupapa. So they all figured I was ‘a contact.’ I think they first found the sickness when they gave me the vaccinations in school. The teacher told the doctor that my father had the mai Pake, so I think she turned me in. People were so scared of this sickness. But I was lucky. Even though we had the disease in our ohana, my family never rejected me. Many people lost their families after they were sent here. That was real isolation then.
The worst thing about being in here is missing my children. I have twelve children and they were all born inside. Nine of my children lived. I delivered all of my own babies. They were all born inside Kalaupapa. Twelve children I delivered. The first few times, the midwife showed me how to do it. With the other nine, I delivered them myself.
It was so hard to give up your children like that, especially to the Board of Health. Seven boys and five girls we had. But three boys died in the nursery. They never took good care of them, yet they would not let us care for our own children, even when we knew they were sick. It was hard. You love them, and then they are taken away, just like we were taken away. But the children would never know us as parents. Well, I try to make the best I can of this disease. I have to like this disease. I have to make the best of it.
Mahalo nui & Easter Blessings to all!
Fr. Brian, ss.cc.