Top News

“Taking the cure”


None

By Heather Killen

TC•Media

NovaNewsNow.com

 

A new book written by an Annapolis County author offers a glimpse into life at ‘the San,’ as seen through the eyes of a 24 year-old patient.

In the early 20th century, tuberculosis, an infectious lung disease, was killing about 1,000 Nova Scotians every year. The provincial government constructed the Nova Scotia Sanatorium, dubbed ‘the San’, in Kentville to treat these patients.

Over the years, people from all over the province were ‘taking the cure’ at the San. Patients were usually restricted to bed rest, often isolated from friends and family for prolonged periods, usually years.

While it was a quiet place focused on treatment and recovery, an atmosphere of fellowship developed and many former staff and patients talk about the deep friendships and various love affairs that were formed to offset the months of loneliness and boredom.

Marilyn Jones, of Port George, says her aunt, Antonia (Toni) Musial, was diagnosed with TB at the age of 13. While in her early 20s, Toni was sent to Kentville from her hometown in Cape Breton, where she spent the remaining 18 months of her life.

Jones’ writing group suggested someone should write about the San and Jones immediately thought about her aunt. Jones was too young to remember Toni before she went in the San, but she remembers the day her aunt died.

“It was like a pall fell over the family, she was so young, ” she said. “I decided that I would start researching the San.”

To her surprise, Jones found a diary that her aunt kept during the last years of her life. She decided to tell the story of the San through excerpts from her aunt’s diary.

A final birthday

‘Well, I’m 24 today and it’s been a big day. A swell one! Mom sent me carnations. I had so many nice cards and also a lovely cake from Verna and her boyfriend, Gordon! Talk about nice of them. Card from Joe,” Toni wrote on Oct. 27, on what would be her last birthday.

Jones describes Toni as a ‘beautiful, smart lady,’ a lively woman who enjoyed outings, parties and family gatherings.

“She had a great sense of humour, she always wanted to be doing something,” Jones said. “That probably didn’t help her illness. She would complain about her cough, but when she was feeling better she would walk for miles in the winter.”

Jones said that TB is a deceptive illness. While Toni frequently complained about a nagging cough, she probably didn’t realize how sick she really was until the disease was quite advanced.

“April 13, 1949. Had disturbing news today. Health nurse told me I had to be in Kentville next week - 21st. Oh God I dread going now. Tried to get Peter but he wasn’t home. I hope he’ll call tomorrow, “she writes.

Leading cause of death

Consumption, or TB, was one of the leading causes of death during the 19th century, according to Jones’ research.  By the early 20th century, promising new treatments were being introduced that offered hope to patients.

Originally built in 1904 for 18 patients, the Nova Scotia Sanatorium quickly expanded under Dr. A.F. Miller.  There was no major treatment center east of Montreal, so Kentville was poised to introduce innovative cures to the Maritimes.

By 1918, the site was recognized enough to treat infected First World War soldiers brought from the trenches of Europe.  

Dr. Miller, himself a former TB patient, is credited with building the facility’s reputation and expanding its capacity to accommodate 400 patients and provide living quarters for 200 of the roughly 325 staff members.

Various recreational programs were introduced to help occupy the patients’ time, Jones added. A popular news magazine was started to keep patients informed about the latest treatments, featuring submitted stories, jokes and letters from former patients.

 In 1932, the San started its own radio station to keep patients up-to-date on news, sports and popular radio programs. and featured send-in requests, special song dedications from one patient to another, hinting at romantic liaisons.

“Dec. 31, 1950 - Today the S.A.N. announcers came up and recorded New Year greetings by us on this floor. Gee I was nervous! Wonder how I’ll sound on air tomorrow,” wrote Toni.

Failing condition

Her condition failed to improve and by spring she was facing major surgery. Her health continued to deteriorate until her death in mid-June from various complications.

“They did everything they could for her,” said Jones. “If she could have held on a little longer, her fate may have been quite different. Her death left a huge hole in the family. “

By the 1950s, streptomycin was available to the general population and drastically reduced the recovery time to months, rather than years. By the early 1970s, the rate of infection had also dropped to less than 50 admissions per year.

The San was downsized gradually, then amalgamated with the memorial hospital in 1975. Jones says that even though it was absorbed into a larger center, the San will always have special place in the hearts of many.

 “Many patients felt it important to keep in touch with friends made while at the San,” she says.  “Dr. Miller was well aware that mental stress and boredom contributed nothing towards improving the health of patients. In time, great advancements were made to alleviate boredom, loneliness and financial worries.”

Jones’ book, Aunt Toni’s Diary, is available at various locations, including Blue Griffin Books in Middleton, the Middleton Pharmasave and the Mount Hanley Museum.

 

 

By Heather Killen

TC•Media

NovaNewsNow.com

 

A new book written by an Annapolis County author offers a glimpse into life at ‘the San,’ as seen through the eyes of a 24 year-old patient.

In the early 20th century, tuberculosis, an infectious lung disease, was killing about 1,000 Nova Scotians every year. The provincial government constructed the Nova Scotia Sanatorium, dubbed ‘the San’, in Kentville to treat these patients.

Over the years, people from all over the province were ‘taking the cure’ at the San. Patients were usually restricted to bed rest, often isolated from friends and family for prolonged periods, usually years.

While it was a quiet place focused on treatment and recovery, an atmosphere of fellowship developed and many former staff and patients talk about the deep friendships and various love affairs that were formed to offset the months of loneliness and boredom.

Marilyn Jones, of Port George, says her aunt, Antonia (Toni) Musial, was diagnosed with TB at the age of 13. While in her early 20s, Toni was sent to Kentville from her hometown in Cape Breton, where she spent the remaining 18 months of her life.

Jones’ writing group suggested someone should write about the San and Jones immediately thought about her aunt. Jones was too young to remember Toni before she went in the San, but she remembers the day her aunt died.

“It was like a pall fell over the family, she was so young, ” she said. “I decided that I would start researching the San.”

To her surprise, Jones found a diary that her aunt kept during the last years of her life. She decided to tell the story of the San through excerpts from her aunt’s diary.

A final birthday

‘Well, I’m 24 today and it’s been a big day. A swell one! Mom sent me carnations. I had so many nice cards and also a lovely cake from Verna and her boyfriend, Gordon! Talk about nice of them. Card from Joe,” Toni wrote on Oct. 27, on what would be her last birthday.

Jones describes Toni as a ‘beautiful, smart lady,’ a lively woman who enjoyed outings, parties and family gatherings.

“She had a great sense of humour, she always wanted to be doing something,” Jones said. “That probably didn’t help her illness. She would complain about her cough, but when she was feeling better she would walk for miles in the winter.”

Jones said that TB is a deceptive illness. While Toni frequently complained about a nagging cough, she probably didn’t realize how sick she really was until the disease was quite advanced.

“April 13, 1949. Had disturbing news today. Health nurse told me I had to be in Kentville next week - 21st. Oh God I dread going now. Tried to get Peter but he wasn’t home. I hope he’ll call tomorrow, “she writes.

Leading cause of death

Consumption, or TB, was one of the leading causes of death during the 19th century, according to Jones’ research.  By the early 20th century, promising new treatments were being introduced that offered hope to patients.

Originally built in 1904 for 18 patients, the Nova Scotia Sanatorium quickly expanded under Dr. A.F. Miller.  There was no major treatment center east of Montreal, so Kentville was poised to introduce innovative cures to the Maritimes.

By 1918, the site was recognized enough to treat infected First World War soldiers brought from the trenches of Europe.  

Dr. Miller, himself a former TB patient, is credited with building the facility’s reputation and expanding its capacity to accommodate 400 patients and provide living quarters for 200 of the roughly 325 staff members.

Various recreational programs were introduced to help occupy the patients’ time, Jones added. A popular news magazine was started to keep patients informed about the latest treatments, featuring submitted stories, jokes and letters from former patients.

 In 1932, the San started its own radio station to keep patients up-to-date on news, sports and popular radio programs. and featured send-in requests, special song dedications from one patient to another, hinting at romantic liaisons.

“Dec. 31, 1950 - Today the S.A.N. announcers came up and recorded New Year greetings by us on this floor. Gee I was nervous! Wonder how I’ll sound on air tomorrow,” wrote Toni.

Failing condition

Her condition failed to improve and by spring she was facing major surgery. Her health continued to deteriorate until her death in mid-June from various complications.

“They did everything they could for her,” said Jones. “If she could have held on a little longer, her fate may have been quite different. Her death left a huge hole in the family. “

By the 1950s, streptomycin was available to the general population and drastically reduced the recovery time to months, rather than years. By the early 1970s, the rate of infection had also dropped to less than 50 admissions per year.

The San was downsized gradually, then amalgamated with the memorial hospital in 1975. Jones says that even though it was absorbed into a larger center, the San will always have special place in the hearts of many.

 “Many patients felt it important to keep in touch with friends made while at the San,” she says.  “Dr. Miller was well aware that mental stress and boredom contributed nothing towards improving the health of patients. In time, great advancements were made to alleviate boredom, loneliness and financial worries.”

Jones’ book, Aunt Toni’s Diary, is available at various locations, including Blue Griffin Books in Middleton, the Middleton Pharmasave and the Mount Hanley Museum.

 

 

Recent Stories