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U3A Writing: Full Circle

Ivy Hollingworth writes of a dreaded disease, pulmonary tuberculosis.

The only known treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis was fresh air, bed rest and in some cases absolutely no talking. Patients were not allowed to speak and everything they wished to say had to be written on a slate. This was to ensure complete rest of the lungs and usually meant two to three years in hospital.

In the 1930's a new treatment was introduced, with the same principle of resting the lungs. This was known as Artificial Pneumothorax and consisted of air being instilled into the pleural cavity, so collapsing the lung for several months. Other similar treatments were used, giving good results and reducing patients' complete rest in bed although not the length of time in hospital.

The next step forward was Thoracic Surgery in the 1940's where the whole lung or the diseased part of it could be removed. These procedures were known as Pneumonectomy, Thoracoplasty and Thoracotomy - drastic measures but having a good prognosis.

Then in the 1950's came the big breakthrough in the conquest of this terrible disease in the discovery of Drug Therapy's effectiveness and finally a vaccine for children which brought about the virtual elimination of the dreaded "killer". Hospitalisation was reduced to weeks instead of years and eventually the sanatorium became a thing of the past.

Gone were the days of being nursed on verandas, or open wards with patio type doors which were always kept open. No more scraping snow off the beds which all had red rubber sheets over the tops. Hot water bottles were filled two hourly when they were beginning to crunch with ice whilst waiting on the bed tables for a short time before collection for refilling. Patients getting ready for sleep looked as if they were on their way to conquer Everest dressed in their thick pyjamas, woollen cardigans, thick knitted socks and mittens, not forgetting the Balaclava Hat!

Unfortunately Tuberculosis is now very high on the increase. The Tubercle Bacillus is becoming resistant to our known drugs.

Will a new drug be found before we are back to where we started sixty years ago?

I sincerely hope so!

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