A Woman Attempts to Rebuild Ohana Broken by Fear of 'Lepers'

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Lindamae Maldonado discovered the truth about her birth family 10 years ago. For most of her life, she had no idea that she was born on Kalaupapa. Her biological parents were among thousands of people who suffered from Hansen's disease, a widely stigmatized malady better known as leprosy, who were forced to live in a sort of internal exile on the isolated peninsula on Molokai.

When Maldonado was in her mid-fifties, one of her adoptive cousins suggested that Maldonado might have been born to Kalaupapa patients. (As it turned out, the cousin was a good friend of Maldonado's biological aunt.)

Maldonado struggled to understand why the state took many children from their parents in Kalapuapa and then helped to hide their past from them. Maldonado's transformed life trajectory has been at times illuminating and at others heartbreaking. She tracked down her mother on the peninsula, although she died in 2007 several years after they were reunited. Maldonado's father, who left Kalaupapa before his daughter discovered the truth, died before she learned about him.

But Maldonado's research has allowed her to map out a family tree of estranged family members, though she is still trying to track relatives down. One of her discoveries was Melvin Carillo, her 75-year-old half brother on her father’s side. They met in person three years ago and have become inseparable.

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