Sunday, August 23, 2015

Medical Monday - Hubert Brown

Cause of Death - Hubert Brown
In a previous Pennsylvania Death Certificate Appreciate Society Wednesday's Child post I talked about Alice Brown, a child of Thomas and Mary Brown nee Barrett, that I was able to neatly place into a fabled male-twin slot in my family tree. I also mentioned that when finding her death certificate online I also found another for a child my family knew nothing about and how he died. This is his story.

Thomas and Mary had six known children: Marian, Thomas Jr, Edward, Walter, Alice, and Hubert. Alice and Hubert were my newest discoveries. Hubert was born on November 10th 1915 and died on November 29th living only 19 days. His cause of death was listed as "enteritis and diarrhea." Gastro-enteritis causes diarrhea which can lead to severe dehydration, malnutrition, and death. How did this little guy get gastro-enteritis?

I found a book/journal excerpt on gastro-enteritis in infants (which works out well since those were the words I searched on Google) and I was pretty horrified at what I began reading. Written about 50 years ago the author of the piece chalked up infants getting this sickness to living in impoverished, filthy conditions. I've got to say that I got the impression that the author looked negatively upon those that had infants suffer and die from this. Did he say that? No, but reading "...In areas where poverty, poor housing, and malnutrition still go hand in hand with ignorance this scourge continues..." doesn't make you feel that he thinks much of the poorest of families. Regardless, it made me wonder what conditions my ancestors were living in. My great grandfather worked in the mines which wasn't the cleanest job in the world, but my great grandmother was a teacher. Hardly ignorant. My mother has nothing but good memories of her grandfather and the time she spent with him. All of the children that survived to adulthood earned bachelor degrees or higher (although I'm told my great grandfather didn't believe in women attending college, my great aunt Marian did anyway and excelled). Not exactly an ignorant family. So how did this infant come down with gastro-enteritis?

As I continued reading this excerpt something caught my eye. The word "giardia". It might not mean much to many reading this, but when I was growing up in Hazleton we would get boil advisories for giardiasis in the water. It was always a pain to have to boil our water before using it. Those advisories were during the 70s and 80s. I've moved away so I don't know if they still deal with these pesky protozoans, but I can imagine they do from time to time throughout the region. So if we were dealing with them when I was a child and the article mentions them is it possible that this was what may have caused the gastro-enteritis in Hubert? Giving water to babies wasn't unheard of. It still happens even with breastfeeding mums. We all know that formula is mixed with water, but when my boys were born (the youngest is nine years old) I had to specifically say to not give them water between breastfeedings. It wasn't because of any fear of water-borne infection, but because I didn't want anything interfering with my milk coming in. So if water is still sometimes given to infants it's certainly possible that it could have been given to one 100 years ago causing an infection. Giardia could have laid the whole family up with severe diarrhea and enteritis. When these things happen in infants they can be deadly while someone older and healthier could recover.

I won't ever truly know how Hubert got sick, but I do feel for his parents. They lost Alice in January of 1914 and then another child in November the following year. Alice and Hubert were their last children and both died. They had to have been devastated. Like Alice and most of her family, Hubert was buried in St. Gabriel's Cemetery in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. I haven't been able to find a marker for him yet and I don't know if one exists, but I created a memorial for him on FindAGrave. Rest in peace, Hubert.