Thursday, October 16, 2008

About Betty

Edwina Parra, a New Orleans debutante at the of age of 19 was enagaged to marry a medical student. The year was 1929. She was diagnosed with Hanson's disease, better know as Leprosy, after a small red spot appeared on her thigh. Shortly thereafter, she was removed from her family home and committed to Gillis W. Long Hansen's Disease Center institute in Carville, LA, better known as the Leper Home. Life would never be the same for Edwina or her family. Carville became her prison.

Then came Betty.

Betty Martin was an assumed name for Edwina, it was common for patients to hide their true identity to protect their family. Leprosy patients and their families have been ostricized from society since biblical times, and it continued in New Orleans in the early 1900's.

A new treatment was being tested and she volunteered to be a guniea pig. She was the first person documented as cured from the disease using the then experimental drug sulfone. She never had any of the disfiguring symptoms common with the disease and lived to the age of XX.

Betty was an author. She wrote an autobiography, "Miracle at Carville", published in 1950 which made the New York Times Best Seller List. She also published a sequel titled, "No One Must Ever Know" in 1959, but this book was not as successful as the the first. The books are out of publication but used copies can be found on the internet. See the links on the right panel of the blog.

Betty met Harry Meyers at Carville. Harry was a patient at Carville also. Betty and Harry escaped from Carville through a hole in the fence in the 1930's and were married. They had no children. Although apparently healhty, Edwina didn't want to have children fearing the disease was heriditary.