Can you imagine being in a sanatorium, let’s say in the late 1800s. Perhaps where you are suffering from the late stages of tuberculosis or as it was known then, of consumption.
You would have been given a bed in a ward with many others, where you could have listened to the concert of each one coughing with their own variety of gentle or not so gentle cough.
Blood mixed with phlegm and rivulets of spittle would most likely run down your chin and dirty the not very hygienic sheets. Since you were suffering from consumption … that is a malady believed back then to be caused by your passionate spirit, the obvious thing to do was to feed you with the dullest food possible – to calm that passionate and ardent spirit and aid you to regain your precarious health. So you would have had probably thin barley soup – barley is said to be “refreshing” to the soul and body. Of course, if the sanatorium was on an upper class level you would be taken to the sulphur bathes where you would be lowered into the water with a special bathing costume … never nude … an embasan in Filipino.
Laying there, in that sombre ward imagine looking out of a window (certainly closed) and seeing a beautiful park with a tree, full of birds and bird houses. Your mind isn’t ill, just your body, so perhaps you imagine as you watch the volitant activity of the birds, your own flight of freedom from all that dull horror of your everyday life. Up up and away – into the brilliant blue sky of a bright Indian summer day finally free from pain and misery.
Of course, if you weren’t rich you wouldn’t even have had the opportunity to go to a sanatorium, you might have joined the ranks of those who died unattended, perhaps on the street.
File this all away for thought because here and now in the twenty-first century, we are free for the most part in our western world, of that terrible scourge and even if it were not so, I don’t think we would find such unhygienic sanatoriums in Western Europe or North America (not legal ones anyway) even the terrible insane asylums were closed in Italy in the 70s and 80s.
Many died from tuberculosis, before the cause and consequent campaign began to pasteurize milk, eliminate the cows that carried the malady and to vaccinate the population. Milk pasteurization? How many of us remember that the bacteria which caused so many deaths from, not only tuberculosis but also meningitis, was carried in infected milk? Before the 1930s, many were the victims of tuberculosis, thanks to drinking milk, though of course there were other vectors this was one of the worst one of all.
© G.s.k. ‘15
1. Sterile 2. Dull 3. Rivulet 4. Barley 5. Volitant (engaged in or having the power of flight. Active; moving.) 6. Phlegm 7. Embasan (to wear clothes while taking a bath) 8. Precarious 9. Sanatorium (a hospital for the treatment of chronic diseases, as tuberculosis or various nervous or mental disorders.) 10. File 11. Sombre (it is just the British spelling of somber use whichever form you prefer) 12. Soup