It was the summer of 1954 when my parents told me that my 18-year-old sister was sick and we all needed to go for tests. I was positive for tuberculosis, or TB, a highly contagious disease that was still common at that time and there was no vaccine. I was eight years old.
Sanatoriums had been built all over the country and that was the way TB was treated – isolation from home and community, no choice! Public health agreed to keep me with my sister so we were placed in the sanatorium at Ninette, Man., an hour from our home in Brandon. I was the first child admitted there at that time. My parents had neither a phone nor a car.
My sister was there, which was a blessing for me, and the care we received was excellent.
I was lucky to be treated with the first antibiotic that was developed for TB in the early ’50s: streptomycin, injected once a week. I went home in November 1955. I spent 18 months of my life there. Tutoring got me through my school year.
My parents were told that I could have a recurrence in my teens and might not have a long life. Ask me if I’m happy to be pushing 75.
My sister had part of one lung removed and suffered compromised lung function for the rest of her life. She died at 67.
Apart from some scar tissue in my lungs and bone damage in my spine, I consider myself to be a lucky survivor. My rights were not violated, my life was saved!
Please listen to the public health professionals.
Stay safe, be well, be kind and have the vaccinations that we are so fortunate to have available to us.
Lynne Rempel, Gibsons