Friday, May 7, 2010
My father lost both of his parents to tuberculosis in the 1930s. For thousands of years, the disease was known as consumption, and had no cure and no treatment. The classic symptoms are a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.
In the mid-19th century, the first institutions were built to care for sufferers. Intially, TB was treated by diet and fresh air at specialized hospitals. Even with these sanitariums available throughout Europe, the disease continued to spread.
In the early 1900s, when Lake County doctor, W.H. Watterson contracted TB, he discovered that there were no facilities in the region to treat it. After his cure, Watterson organized the Lake County Tuberculosis Institute.
If people could not afford the sanitarium they would remain at home, often isolated from other family members. In the case of my grandmother, Marie Sternhagen Dretske, she stayed in a small cottage behind her parents' home in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.
In 1939, a 90-bed sanitarium was constructed on Belvidere Street in Waukegan, adjacent to today's Belvidere Park. The building was modern in design and became nationally known for its unique architecture.
Sanitarium under construction, 1939 - LCDM 77.13
Sanitarium lobby. Photo by Hedrich-Blessing Studio, Chicago, circa 1940 - LCDM 77.20.
By the 1940s, the emphasis on the need for fresh air was gone, and patient rooms looked much as they do today. TB Sanitarium room. Photo by Hedrich-Blessing Studio, Chicago, circa 1940 - LCDM 77.13
The first vaccine for TB was developed at the Pasteur Institute in France between 1905 and 1921. Mass vaccination against TB did not begin until after World War II. Also in the 1940s, a series of antibiotics were developed to combat the disease.
Diagnosis relies on chest X-rays, a tuberculin skin test, blood tests, as well as microscopic examination and microbiological culture of bodily fluids. Treatment is difficult and requires long courses of multiple antibiotics. Sanitarium examination room, circa 1940 - LCDM 77.20
"Get Your Free Chest X-Ray Here" is painted on the front of this mobile tuberculosis unit, circa 1955. Photo by The Gerstenslager Company, Wooster, Ohio - LCDM 2009.13.1.