Sunday, October 25, 2015

Medical Monday - William Reilly's Death

The Scranton Republican, 04SEP1913, pg16
Last Monday I posted about the death of Margaret Reilly nee Barrett. In that obituary her grandson, William Reilly, was mentioned. He died about a week before she did. What a horrible time for that family.


Young Man Claimed by the Grim Reaper

Death claimed William Reilly, aged seventeen years, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Reilly, of South Main street, early yesterday morning. He had been ill ten months.

Besides his parents, one sister, Margaret, survives. The funeral will be held Friday morning at 9 o'clock. A mass of requiem will be sung in St. Mary's church.

Burial will be made in St. Mary's cemetery."

The obituary doesn't quite match the death certificate exactly. It had that he was just a few months short of his seventeenth birthday, but it's not a big difference. He was still too young to be taken from his parents.

Excerpt of William Reilly's death certificate
William was born on November 4th 1896 in Avoca, Pennsylvania. He died on September 3rd 1913. Aside from some possible misspellings his cause of death was "valvular disease of heart (mitral)." You could stop there if you chose to. There was something wrong with his heart...but you have to look further and ask yourself why did this teenager die because of his heart?

The secondary/contributory cause of death is "chorea - rheumatism". That's not as in arthritis, but as in rheumatic fever.

I did a little research to confirm that it was rheumatic fever and because I hadn't heard of chorea before. The first thing I though of was cholera, but needless to say that wasn't right.

Chorea is derived from the Greek word meaning to dance, but they were used to describe the irregular, jerky movements that some developed who had acute rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can develop from complications from strep throat or scarlet fever. Rheumatic fever, aside from the chorea-type movements, can also lead to heart damage/valve problems and heart failure.

So it would seem that William had gotten sick months earlier (as mentioned in the obituary) and this would be the outcome. Strep? Scarlett fever? Doesn't matter much. There were no antibiotics to treat it with and eventually his heart gave out.

It reminds me of Little Women when Beth got scarlet fever. She survived but remained weak for the rest of her short life. How many people this must have happened to. How many it still happens to in areas of the world without easy access to penicillin.

Rest in peace, William. May you be remembered forever.

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