Living on an island where most of the locals are descendants of people who have lived here for generations has given me an interest in local history and genealogy.
Many of my older patients’ parents and grandparents lived to a fine old age without the modern conveniences and medical care we take for granted today but some did not. People had so little. As in the poorest areas of the world today, few had running water, food was limited in variety, quality and quantity, sanitation was primitive and there were no immunizations. Everyone knew of (or was related to) a woman who died in childbirth, a baby who succumbed to prematurity, a child who’d suffered for days before dying from a now preventable disease, a young man dead of injuries at work. All of the following obituaries1 were written about relatives of our current patients (exact relation in brackets):
1908: We regret to record the death of AC, son of Mr. and Mrs. SC, aged eight years. The little fellow was attacked with a severe case of diphtheria about ten days ago from which he succumbed on Saturday morning.
1908: Death again visited the home of Mr. and Mrs. SC on Wednesday of last week, when their little son F succumbed to the ravishes of diphtheria. The news of the little fellows death following so closely upon that of the other boy the previous week, has cast a gloom over the whole town. It was deemed necessary by the Board of Health to quarantine Mr. C’s premises, and several other houses in town in the hope of stamping out the contagious disease. (uncles)
1918: Mrs. DB of Evansville died on Monday morning, November 25th after a severe illness of pneumonia. The deceased was in her thirty-second year and leaves her husband, four children, her mother and three sisters to mourn her death. (grandmother)
1920: Death came to MB Saturday night, February 14 after a week’s illness of influenza. The deceased was 28 years old and has been an invalid for twenty years having St. Vitus Dance since her childhood. At the age of fifteen she lost her eyesight and has always been in poor health suffering with tuberculosis for many years. (sister)
1920: We are sorry to chronicle the death of WB infant daughter of Mr. and Mrs. HB of Silver Water. Aged 7 month and 2 days. Death was caused by an attack of acute indigestion followed by convulsions, and took place at the home of her grandparents (aunt)
1929: A feeling of gloom was cast over the community of Barrie Island at the death of AB after an illness of almost four weeks duration. In spite of the best medical skill and careful nursing she passed away quietly on Saturday, August 24th. She was six and a half years of age….a bright little girl and a great favorite of all. Her passing leaves a gap that will be keenly felt by her little companions at both the Sunday and Public schools. She leaves to mourn her loss her sorrowing parents, four sisters and three brothers. (appendicitis-aunt)
So take a minute. We are very fortunate, the average Canadian now lives well into his or her eighties. We calculate tens of thousands of dollars/quality year of life gained as cost effective health care and spend millions on faint hope treatments and medications.
Do we also do enough to ensure that our neighbours on this planet have access to water, adequate food, basic sanitation and vaccinations so stories like the above are no longer told?
1 extracted from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onmanito/obituary/Ba.html and http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onmanito/obituary/Ce-Cn.html accessed 12/12/2011