Three siblings from Sotra

The last people from Western Norway to be diagnosed with leprosy were three siblings from Sotra, an island close to Bergen. Their mother and two uncles had contracted leprosy and been admitted to Pleiestiftelsen Hospital. However, by the time the siblings were diagnosed with leprosy in 1951 they were adults, and more than 20 years must have passed since they had been infected with the disease.

Three siblings from Sotra. Photo from Marta Lillian Ekerhovds novel.
Photo courtesy of Marta Lillian Ekerhovd, author of the book series ‘Angunnas hemmelighet’.

The sister had a wound on a foot that would not heal and that baffled the doctors. By coincidence, one of the nurses at the doctor’s surgery, who was filling in for a nurse on leave, was a deaconess who had worked at a missionary station in Madagascar. Based on the appearance and smell of the wound, she suspected that it was leprosy, even though the disease was believed to have been eradicated in Norway. The doctor was in doubt but samples were taken nonetheless. When it turned out to be leprosy, her two brothers were also examined and given the same diagnosis.

The three siblings stayed for a while at Pleiestiftelsen Hospital in Bergen, where they were treated by head physician Melsom using the sulfone medication promin. During their stay at the institution, they came and went as they pleased and often visited their family. They studied, were socially active, met with friends and participated in other group activities.

They made a complete recovery but the treatment took four years. They subsequently moved back to their apartments and made little reference to having had the disease after that time. All three chose not to have children.

Marta Lillian Ekerhovd knew the three siblings and the rest of their family well and is keen to preserve their history through writing and talking about them

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