Cyber Museum Navigation Bar
Featured Exhibit

Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Part One: The Atlantic Ocean

Monday, September 3 - Visit to the Leper Hospital

Angmagssalik to Reykjavik This evening I looked up Dr. Julius Maggi-Magnus, who is the superintending physician to the Leprosarium. Very kindly he called for me at eight, bringing with him his son, who is a student of architecture at Liverpool. Dr. Magnus a fine person, toward sixty, short and squat; intelligent, interested, kindly. He is in private practice as dermatologist in Reykjavik and directs the work of the Leper Hospital in addition.

We drove through the dusk over a bumpy road until reaching an attractive two story building, on a point of land jutting into one of the bights of the Saxafloi, some three miles from town. The entrance was through a large hall hung with tokens from the Odd Fellows, who help, I suppose, in its support. It is a hospital of about sixty beds and was built some thirty years ago when the leper population of the island included 230 patients. The measures of eradication have been so energetically applied that there remain today only 22 lepers in all Iceland, and these are resident in this hospital. One may be sure that the country is not disturbed by its lack of ability to fill this building with tenants!

The lower floor is reserved for men and the upper for women. In the first room were three men, all "old" cases. Two of them had been residents since the opening of the hospital. They had suffered extensive mutilations of fingers and toes, and one old fellow was wearing special shoes because the destruction had gone back to the metatarsals. All of his sores had healed, except a large deep ulcer in the sole of each foot. The hands bore extensive scars and deformations, showing clearly where the extrusions had occurred.

We went from room to room and talked with the patients. They seemed perfectly happy and I must say were comfortably fixed. Much attention was given to keeping them active and they did not seem likely to complain of their lot. None were in pain, and Dr. Magnus explained that the chief improvement from the chaulmoogra oil and its derivatives was seen in the cessation of pain and usually the arrest of the disease. I tested sensation on a few people and found deep sensibility was usually present in spite of the loss of superficial sensation, but there was one patient in whom the entire sensory system was obliterated from the lower extremities. Most of the people showed evidence of the disease in the hands, but only one had the facial nodules typical of the leontine expression, and this was a man admitted only five months ago. There were several, however, with dermic scars about the eyes which resulted in mishapen and defective lids. Several had lost the sight of one or both eyes because of ulcers of the cornea - and like the plantar sores, these had not healed over. There was one old man with but a single lesion, and that in the larynx.

We soaked our hands in bichloride and then scrubbed with soap before leaving. It was quite dark outside but the younger Magnus stopped to point to the small garden in front, from which they hope some result. The soil is salty and things do not flourish here. Back at the hotel we had tea together before parting and discussed the architecture of the city, which appears to be at a stagnant stage. Magnus Jr. is rather optimistic about the future, particularly with the group housing plan which has sprung up so universally in Europe.

I think I fell asleep before getting completely undressed!

Previous Page Next Page