San Lazaro Church and leper hospital

San Lazaro Church and leper hospital

On a day forecast with thunderstorms we drove to San Lazaro Church, named after San Lazaro, the Saint of the Poor.  San Lazaro is also the protector of health and dogs.  Pilgrims visit this church every year on Dec. 17.  We visited the hospice that specializes in skin diseases.  Che Guevera was instrumental in organizing this hospital.  The facility also treats patients with diabetes and AIDS.  The buildings were clean as we were ushered into a reception room where a tiny nun fielded any and all questions.  She was definitely a nun.  Her serenity was strong as she stood in the traditional nun’s habit.  I learned that nine children were admitted for leprosy last year.  Leprosy is curable when diagnosed early.  The cause of the cases is due to late diagnosis in outlying areas.  There are 30 nurses and 15 doctors at the site.  Medication is in short supply and is supplemented by the World Health Organization.  Currently there are 160 to 170 patients, 120 to 130 of them with leprosy.  Due to social problems 80 to 90 of them live in the hospital.  The facility has a capacity of 200 beds and shares research through the internet.  Today there are only 6 nuns working at the hospital.  Two of them are nurses.  At the time of the revolution, the nuns were not allowed to administer religion and instead they remained and worked as assistants, cooks or housekeepers.  In an effort to donate funds, we were generous but learned that money orders or checks could not be sent by mail.  Instead one has to send them through another country and bank.  Confusing.  We left currency.  The thunderstorm persisted but as we left San Lazaro, the sun broke through the clouds.