Tuberculosis - One Third Of The World's Population Has It
When you read the current statistics on a disease most people still think of as something of the past -- one that one third of the planet's human population has already, and understand that over a million and a half people die from it -- each and every year -- the Swine Flu H1N1 -- (which spreads by the same methods), at this point just doesn't seem as scary with it's mere less than a half million infected, and only five thousand dying from it world thus far. This other pandemic of disease has been killing people for over four thousand years.
Back in the 1900s, over two hundred and fifty million people died from it. Far worse, is that in today's times, thirty-five million people will die from it in the next twenty years, one billion people will contract the disease. It's a disease that kills more adults each year than any other infectious disease, including malaria and all the the tropical diseases combined. It is a lover of women, as more women will die from it than any other disease.
I guess for me, this disease above all others, has a name and two faces -- that of my maternal great-grandmother (Sarah Alice Owens) and her little toddler girl, who died from it in 1919. The disease I'm talking about is tuberculosis and it's more than shocking to know that there is no known cure for this disease, despite the fact that it has been known to kill us since the times of early Egypt.
They were in good company, and with Sarah being an aspiring author and teacher -- she certainly was perhaps aware of the irony, that she would die of tuberculosis, like many of her admired sources of inspiration.
Among the people who died from it were Robert Louis Stevenson, the Bronte sisters, Honoré de Balzac, Elizabeth Barrett Browning,Robert Burns, Washington Irving, Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant, Eugene Gladstone O'Neill, George Orwell, Henry David Thoreau,and even Mozart.
Today, it's been fifty years since a tuberculosis cure or preferred treatment was developed. Over ninety percent of patients will now survive if they receive the right treatment. So, if you think about it -- the one billion deaths predicted are pretty much all so very unnecessary.
The cure for the disease is complicated and involves taking several different antibiotic drugs for a minimum of six months and often up to a full year or in some cases for two years. People around the world are dying because they are not receiving treatment or receiving inadequate treatment. One person every twenty seconds dies from this disease, and now there are drug resistant variations of this disease. Yet, the newest medications are more than forty years old.
The Beloved Physician
It was cold, but very beautiful and quiet in the deep woods that afternoon, so the story goes. The mountains covered with unbroken forest rose steeply from the river, and at their base the valley swept out of sight in gracious waves.
A hunter, clad in well-worn corduroys, thick leather boots and a fur cap, had fallen asleep, his bun beside him, as he waited for a fox. As he slept, the dreamed.
Instead of the fox runway where he stood, he saw the forest melt away and the whole mountainside become covered with curiously built houses. As he gazed intently upon them, the man saw that they were built inside out, as if the inhabits lived on the outside.
It would surprise you to know, that there was a time, if you stood on the spot where the hunter waited through the cold midwinter afternoon, where you would see that his dreams had come true. Dotted over the mountain side were many small buildings, all of them with porches bigger than themselves. Sidewalks and roads ran from point to point in the little colony of dream homes. In the summer, instead of tracks of unbroken forest, green lawns and flower-beds met the eye.
From the day the hunter had that dream, it was only a short time to achieve that great transformation. None other than the hunter himself, Dr. Edward Livingstone Trudeau (1848-1915), called "the beloved physician" made his dreams come true.
Dr. Edward Livingstone Trudeau
When he fell asleep with his gun that cold winter day he was not merely a weary sportsman waiting for a wily fox. He was also a very sick man who had come to the Adirondacks merely to spend his last days amid surroundings which he loved.
He had nursed a brother who had died from tuberculosis, and because so little was known in those days about the disease -- Dr. Trudeau had exposed himself to unnecessary risks and so contracted the same illness.
He was only twenty-five years old at the beginning of a promising medical career, and a happily married man when he first got ill. After some months' stay close to Saranac Lake at the lodge of the famous trail guide, Paul Smith - Dr. Trudeau gained so much benefit from the beautiful air and restful woods that he returned a second time.
This treatment of open air and rest is one that is usually followed now, but in those days it was a new thing. If the patients were ill enough they were kept in bed, and all fresh air was carefully excluded, or if they were well enough to be about -- violent exercise, such as horseback riding, was often prescribed. Of course, all of this prior to the 1950s, had disastrous results for the patients.
The second summer Dr. Trudeau, against all then medical advice, decided to remain on through the severe winter, although Paul Smith's was then sixty miles from a doctor or a railroad, and entirely cut off from all connection with the outside world.
The Adirondacks were a real hunter's paradise, and every day the doctor followed his favorite sport, which was quite possible without going far form the house.
His wife and two children joined him, and the doctor so improved that he began to practice medicine once again among the people who lived in the region. After four years, he moved to Saranac Lake, then only a small lumber center with only a few houses and a sawmill.
Land For The Sanatorium Was A Gift Of The Guides
A few patients placed themselves under his care, and gradually the number increased. The visitors to the lakes were generally wealthy people, but Dr. Trudeau gave the guides and their families free medical attention. They were all soon devoted to him.
When the doctor made up his mind to build a sanatorium at Saranac Lake for people of moderate means, the guides found out the piece of land that he wanted and by subscription raised the money and gave Dr. Trudeau the land.
Plans for building were at once considered and the doctor, putting his pride in his pocket, began asking his friends, acquaintances and patients for subscriptions towards the expenses. For thirty years here bravely continued to beg money for others and on many occasions had great pleasure in the generosity of his friends.
This was not done easily or without setbacks. On the contrary, the thirty years were full of uphill and heroic effort often in the midst of bad health, difficulties, trials and sorrows.
Year by year, he face the problem of paying a debt on his sanatorium because patients were charged a fee that did not cover expenses.
Each and every day was lived among people who were often in the saddest condition. Three of his four children died, but he continued bravely in his work. His house and little laboratory were burned down, all his instruments and precious records lost -- but he gradually rebuilt them.
Studying The Germ That Caused The Dreaded Disease
Besides looking after his patients in the sanatorium, and those who came from the country around or journeyed from far to see him -- his fame grew fast.
Dr. Trudeau was occupied constantly with experiments that would help in the fight against disease. Back then it was very hard to get instruments and apparatus even in the cities. So you can imagine how had it was so far away in the heart of the woods.
His first laboratory was a little room at Saranac Lake, heated by a wood stove (there was no coal). He had a home-made apparatus, heated by a kerosene lamp, and in this he succeeded in growing the tubercle bacillus, which had been discovered by Koch to be the germ that causes the disease.
Dr. Trudeau had many curious experiences among his patients. on one occasion at the end of a long day's work he saw a wretched-looking man waiting outside his office.
The doctor was worn out, and it was in no very pleasant tone that he told the patient to enter, yet when he saw how thin and ill the last visitor was, he heart softened. The tramp sat down, put his hands in his pockets and started at the doctor.
The Man From The Poor House
"How did you come here, and what is wrong?" asked the doctor, and his visitor told a frank tale.
He had been sent to a large public hospital, and not liking it, determined to get out.
In the ward he heard the doctors and patients speak of Saranac Lake and Dr. Trudeau, and made up his mind to strike out for the sanatorium. He was without a cent, but begged enough to get some small amount of money way on his journey. Soon, however, he was discovered and placed in the poorhouse.
He told the authorities his story and his aim, and they bought him a ticket to Saranac.
"In that way I finally got here. Now what can you do for me, Doctor?"
The doctor collected enough money from some of his patients for the tramp to build a little rough board shanty on a vacant lot. There he slept on a straw bed, and the hotel proprietor gave him food so that his lived very contentedly. He says for eighteen months and the doctor grew very fond of him.
So the work prospered and spread, and the fame of the delicate doctor grew. Other states, other cities and other individuals followed the plan of Saranac Lake Sanatorium, which was the first of its kind in America to practice the simple principles of fresh air, suitable food and rest.
Even the famous Robert Louis Stevenson went there for the outdoor cure in 1897. However, he would later die from tuberculosis once he left there. By the time it was finished the sanatorium had over fifty buildings, patient and staff cottages, an infirmary, a workshop, library, laundry, chapel, it's own nursing school, and even it's own post office whose stamp marked "Tradeau, NY."
Founded in 1884, today it has involved into a non-profit biomedical research center, focused on eradication of infectious and inflamatory diseases
When Dr. Trudeau died, in 1915, he had the satisfaction of knowing that his work marked the raising of the standard in the great fight against tuberculosis -- the white plague as it was then referred to.
Countries With The Highest Rates of Tuberculosis
- South Africa
If You'd Like To Know More!
- Adirondack Museum - Tuberculosis: Curing in the Adirondacks
- Cure for Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is a major health problem in world today. Read on to know possible cures for this deadly disease Cure for Tuberculosis.
- List of famous tuberculosis victims - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Trudeau Institute
- Tuberculosis - Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
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The Silent Killer - Tuberculosis
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