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Book details
  • SubGenre:Medical (incl. Patients)
  • Language:English
  • Pages:170
  • eBook ISBN:9781543991369
  • Paperback ISBN:9781543991352

The Disease

One Man's Journey Through a Life with Leprosy

by Anne Harmon Brett

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Johnny P. Harmon contracts leprosy when he is 24 years old. He is sent to the National Leprosarium, a prison-like facility in Carville, Louisiana. What might have been a catastrophic diagnosis for most people, Johnny treats as little more than an inconvenience.

Johnny P. Harmon, a good looking and intelligent Texan has plans to become a Texas A&M civil engineer, marry a good woman and have a couple of kids. Without warning, he becomes a leper instead. He becomes a member of society's most feared and ostracized community. Within the barbed wire fences of Carville, he begins a new life for himself. He creates a  successful photography business, becomes a passionate advocate for the patients and falls in love with another patient.

This memoir speaks of one person's fortitude to live the best life possible no matter what the circumstances. It speaks of determination, resilience, and courage. It is also a history of the National Leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana from 1930 to 1955 when patients were treated more like inmates in a prison than patients in a hospital. But most of all, it is a love story about two patients who were discouraged from marrying and having children by hospital authorities.

The book contains 30 images of photos, paintings, cartoons and illustrations by Johnny.
About the author

Anne Harmon Brett is Johnny P. Harmon's daughter. While growing up with her parents, she never heard the words... leper or leprosy. It was always called The Disease. She is a graduate of LSU's School of Journalism. She lives in Vacherie, Louisiana with her husband, Dan. They are the parents of one son, David.

Book Reviews

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The Disease Whether or not you have met the Harmons or you have any knowledge of leprosy, you will know about both after reading this book. Anne Harmon Brett has arranged her late father, Johnny’s, memoirs in an easy-to-read format that introduces the reader to an outgoing, ambitious, persistent, courageous, compassionate, humorous, and personable man. He was respected and loved by everyone who knew him. Public awareness and treatment of leprosy (his disease) were of great importance to him. He was brilliant, skillful, resourceful, innovative, and talented; a gifted photographer, artist, draftsman, mathematician, writer, and more. His love for his family and fellow man was genuine and heartwarming. The book tells a compelling, factual, and informative story. Johnny P. Harmon’s disease never broke his spirit. It only diverted his paths through life and drove him to be stronger and more persevering. His writings are honest, sometimes blunt, but sincere and loving, whimsical and charming, describing many ups and downs, gains and loses, breakthroughs and setbacks, hopes, dreams, and misfortunes, triumphs and sorrows, patience and endurance, faith, acceptance, thankfulness, and appreciation. I could go on and on! Mr. Harmon downplayed the hard times and celebrated the good. He and Anne Triche, another patient at the leprosarium, became long time friends, then eventually sweethearts, a married couple, and parents of two children. The family lived unique and interesting lives, making the most of their fate and gracefully confronting their roadblocks and challenges. I love this book!!! I know you will love it too! Excellent job, Anne!! Char Read more
Conquering The Disease Having grown up in South Vacherie, I remember Mr. Johnny Harmon quite fondly. I always knew he was a remarkable man who was loved by the community; however, there was so much about him that I did not know. His daughter, Anne, relates the story of her father’s life, always emphasizing his deep love for family above all else. He faces “the disease” head on but does not succumb to it—and he goes on to live a very fulfilling life! Read more
The Disease I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and how Hansens disease affected families in the area since my family was affected by it also. It gave me peace of mind to know that they could have a full life even while having to live there. I grew up knowing about Carville even though I lived in New Orleans. I would recommend this book to everyone in Louisiana for the historical as well as the biographical value. Read more
Rachael LeBlanc Schexnayder Because I grew up in Sunshine, which is a community near Carville, I was very interested in reading The Disease. As a child, we would visit the Carville Hospital to Christmas carol with our CYO group. I now live in Vacherie so I was familiar with both settings described in the book. When I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I bought a copy for my 91 year old Dad and it brought him to tears reading the hardships the Harmons went through in their lifetime. This is a must read and describes how the stigma of having leprosy did not stop Johnny and Ann from having a family despite the distance between them and their children. The Becnel family demonstrated kindness and generosity of true Cajun people by stepping in as Ann and JC's parents. Read more
The Disease First, I have my roots in South Vacherie through my late mother. The author has channeled her father's words and story quite well. The book details, with humor, the fear and uncertainty of how the Harmon's 'disease' challenged the community to attain a level of understanding and tolerance at accepting this minority population at the time. The book is enlightening and educational. I commend the author for keeping her parents' spirit alive. A must read in that it teaches one how to accept and tolerate those that are 'different' than oneself. Heartwarming. Read more
The Disease Very touching story! As a resident of Vacherie, I knew some of the basic story about the Harmon family. I am so glad that Anne wrote this book so that I was able to learn more details about the encounters this family confronted through the years. Rosie Read more
The Disease "The Disease" is poignant portrayal of a life fraught with adversity and is a lesson in perseverance to overcome obstacles to a happiness. The stories included are at once heartbreaking and heartwarming, the most touching being those that tell of Johnny Harmon's love for his beloved wife and family despite literally being kept at arm's length from his two children for fear of passing on the disease to them. Through it all this family survives because of the love and compassion they have for one another. Many other families would have fallen apart where this one triumphed. Read more
THE DISEASE For those of us who lived in Vacherie in the 1950s-80s, THE DISEASE, is a must read! It is a heart-warming story about a sweet gentleman and his family who, though facing tough life obstacles, managed to live lives full of love and caring of others. I knew Mr. Harmon as most people did, as a fine photographer. It was so interesting to learn of his other many talents. This book helps readers understand the disease and appreciate the struggles of those who lived with it during a time when treatment was harsh and not always successful. Thanks, Anne Harmon Brett, for sharing your parent's loving story. Read more
The Disease A charming collection of short stories that reflect the challenges of life in and around Carville, Louisiana. Against long odds, Johnny Harmon marries, has a family and forges a career as a freelance photographer while beating the disease! A heroic story. Read more