At the age of 19 José was removed from his family in a hearse and introduced to a world filled with fear that had its origins over three thousand years earlier. He and his loved ones struggled against the stigma associated with the term “leper” and against misconceptions that the disease was a punishment from God, that his fingers and nose would fall off, that the illness was fatal, and that it was highly communicable.
The introduction to the world of leprosy not only meant separation from loved ones, but also a detour of educational, employment, and marriage goals. This diversion gave José the opportunity to make decisions about treatment, establish new friendships with “brothers and sisters” similarly diagnosed, and overcome numerous challenges and barriers, both real and imagined. Ramirez eventually secured a master’s degree in social work from Louisiana State University, and become an international advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities.
Jose Ramirez was recently a guest on NPR's All Things Considered. Click here to listen to his inspirational interview and read a small excerpt from the book.