Paula is a 36 year old Brazilian nurse living in Rio de Janeiro. Paula discovered she had Hansen’s disease during her last term at the Nursing University, at which point she had begun feeling some numbness on her upper thigh. After several months of inconclusive tests, Paula was diagnosed with indeterminate Hanseniase. Devastated, she was unable to leave her house or tell her family for days. But when she finally confronted them with the news, she received overwhelming support, and felt comforted by their presence.
Paula began multidrug therapy (MDT) treatment on 10th July 2002. She continued for about a month, during which she felt extremely lethargic, even after completing the most menial of tasks. Concerned, she consulted a physician who determined that she had developed Hemolytic Anemia. Paula was offered a job at the Health Centre, where she was able to work with a project called the Programme to Control Hanseniase and take her doses of medication. While being treated at the Health Centre, she began talking with other patients about the disease and was able to provide them with some comfort. This lead her to become both a patient and a nurse in the Programme. Gradually, she became more comfortable telling her colleagues about her condition. Paula completed the treatment in December 2002.
The following year, she began working with the Family Health Programme, believing she had been cured of the disease. In 2006, Paula developed a reaction condition: an UIlnar Neuritis. This was a very difficult period to get though; Paula’s family members where experiencing their own health problems, and she had started a medication who’s side effects lowered her self-esteem immensely. Later that year, Paula was invited to discuss issues related to Hansen’s disease with the Health Ministry.
In 2009, Paula began her master’s degree, and continued to research Hansen’s disease for several years. In 2015, Paula began a teaching career at the Nursing University of Rio de Janeiro, where she ensures that all of her students are well-educated on Hansen’s disease.
“My life goes on, and I know that my mission is to support and care for people affected by Hanseniase.”