Sunday, May 10, 2015

Age of Antibiotics' Patients Zero : Aaron Alston of St Nicholas Ave, Harlem and Charles Aronson of Vyse Ave, the Bronx

Thanks to the hard work of two relatives of these penicillin pioneers (Claude Jay for Aaron and Lisa Liel for Charles), these forgotten individuals can emerge from the shadows almost fully formed.

We don't know everything about them (we never do about anybody) but we sure know far more about them than we learned from the scanty evidence published up to now.

They were poor, came from unpopular minorities (one black, the other Jewish) and had a disease (SBE) then considered incurable and so they (and thousands like them) were written off by the Allied medical establishment as 'lives unworthy of wasting a lot of medical attention upon during a total war'.

A sentiment that was cheered upon by their counterparts in Germany, Russia and Japan during the same war - and for the same 'eugenic' reasons.

But one individual, Dr Martin Henry Dawson, gave up his own life to fight to keep them and people like them alive.

What good a military victory over Nazi medicine if the Nazi doctors won the moral war when the Allies agreed upon 'discarding the unfit in times of war and stress' ?

Aaron, the super athlete, might have been expected to do better fighting off his disease than the always sickly Charles but in fact he died in January 1941, just as Charles went home cured of his first bout of SBE ---thanks in part to his pioneering penicillin shots.

He had three more years of normal existence granted to him but got a second bout of SBE, which again he and penicillin beat.

But he also survived a severe stroke during the process which left him speechless and paralyzed .

Dawson's JAMA article of 1945 records "CA" as being transferred to an institution for chronic care on August 15 1944.

Since Dawson held a key post at Goldwater hospital, I had always guessed that is where Charles was sent.

Lisa send me Charles's 1951 death certificate which records that her relative went to Goldwater hospital on that exact same date and died there 7 years and a few months later.

Not the ending I - Charles - or anyone  - might have wished for ....

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