TB and fresh air

In the course of searching our library website I came across the fascinating digitised photograph albums from the Cashmere Sanitorium.  They take us back to a time when tuberculosis was common in the community. There were no preventive vaccinations and the fresh air and isolation were part of the cure (if you were lucky). In Christchurch the Cashmere Sanitorium was the place you were sent to live high on the Port Hills in little huts open to the weather.

The photographs show patients, nurses, doctors and other staff at the Sanitorium. The patients recline on their beds, pose in their little wooden huts, sweep snow off the paths, play croquet and listen to an orchestra. Was anyone in your family ever at Cashmere? You might see their photograph.

In my family I had an uncle with TB (thankfully recovered).  I remember childhood visits to the TB ward at Wellington Hospital which was up on a hill above the main hospital.  I was sent to watch the rabbits they kept in cages in the grounds. There were sanitoriums all over the country, often in dramatic locations like the Port Hills or, in the North Island the wonderfully sited Pukeora sanitorium at Waipukerau.

The literary connections with tuberculosis are vast. Many writers included “consumptive” characters and many were themselves the victim of the plague. The roll call of those affected or killed by TB include Robert Burns, Charles Bukowski, Paul Eluard, Dashiel Hammett, Robert A. Heinlein, Franz Kafka, D. H. Lawrence, Sir Walter Scott, Dylan Thomas and of course Katherine Mansfield.

2 thoughts on “TB and fresh air

  1. Robyn 21 August 2012 / 10:49 am

    Did James K. Baxter work in the morgue at the Cashmere Sanitorium? Or is that a wild rumour?

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