with Ferenc Molmar, MD
Q. Our adopted child from a far-off country has been diagnosed with leprosy. The child is under treatment and the condition appears to be stable. However, a clerical employee in our pediatrician’s offices seems to be a bit of a gossip and told a neighbor from my garden club about our child’s illness. Now the neighbors refuse to let their children play with our child, and some are even demanding that our child carry a bell around and ring it whenever approaching other people. We got hold of an old Salvation Army bell, which makes quite a bit of noise, but this has not satisfied our neighbors. Our child’s school has put our child into a “special needs” class isolated from the other children. The guidance counselor is beginning to suggest that we send our child away to a leprosarium school in Molokai or Louisiana. This problem is causing a lot of stress at home, and my spouse is threatening to leave me. (Note: we are not married.)
A. Whoa, whoa. Quite a lot to digest there! First of all, leprosy is generally called Hansen’s Disease today, which is a more appetizing name all around. Your pediatrician should have used that name to begin with. But now the damage is done, and now instead of thinking that your child has a minor eye infection, or a lymphoma perhaps, your neighbors are imagining suppurating sores and fingers falling off. That is the problem right there.
Hansen’s Disease is very treatable nowadays, and unless your child is severely disfigured, there is a chance your child can live a long and productive life. For now, I suggest moving far away and perhaps changing your name. Also lose that bell, and don’t use the L word again!
I cannot advise you on your marriage, or lack thereof. I realize many unmarried people adopt children from far-away lands today, because they cannot adopt them at home, but it was still irresponsible of you to do it. Having unmarried parents puts an extra burden on children, even those who are adopted and don’t have leprosy.
Q. Our elderly aunt died recently of toxoplasmosis, which she may have picked up from the many cats she lived with. The humane society has taken most of the cats away to be put down, except for a litter of three kitties which my five-year-old son sneaked away in a gunny sack. We took these kitties to the veterinarian, and they seem to be “clean,” but I’m not sure it’s a good thing to keep animals from such an unhealthy household. Are we at risk?
A. First of all, I’m a real medical doctor, not a veterinarian, and I’m not here to talk about kittens. But I worry about a five-year-old boy who moons over cats. One day he’s stealing them in a gunny sack (where did he get a gunny sack, I wonder?), and before you know it he’s tying little pink ribbons around their necks and sewing little outfits for them. Is that the kind of life you want for your son? Why don’t you get him a dog? A nice big german shepherd dog? Like Rin-Tin-Tin. Or a boxer maybe.
Author: Cooper Ward
Cooper Ward hails from Lake Plains, IL, which he describes as “the flattest place east of Nebraska.” He enjoys watching cooking shows and listening to semi-classical music.