Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Treating tuberculosis in the 1940s

I initially wondered why Charlotte's mother, Marianne, was able to persuade a patient in Prior Place Sanatorium to be treated 'illicitly' with a substance (Tuberculomucin) not on the list of orthodox treatments in Britain. But what were the available treatments? Fresh air and bedrest - sometimes for years on balconies open to all weathers such as one above at Craig-y-nos Sanatorium in the Swansea Valley; immobilisation in plaster casts; light therapy; surgical operations such as artificial pneumothorax (collapsing lungs in order to 'rest' them and hope the TB lesions heal); gold injections - yes, really; tonics and nourishing food. In London, in 1941, the TB death rate was 100 per 100,000 population, a 72 per cent increase over 1938, and 4500 people caught the infection that year. Perhaps it's understandable that patients would jump at the chance of trying a new treatment.