Sunday, October 18, 2015

1899: National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives

Figure 1 -- National Jewish Health for Consumptives (5, page 16)
By the 1880's a whopping 25% of Denver's residents were suffering from lung diseases -- mainly tuberculosis, and many were literally dying in the streets.  This inspired the Jewish community to coalesce and donate funds to build a home for them. 

In 1899 the doors to the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives opened with the motto  (1)
"None may enter who can pay -- none can pay who enter."  
It was built by the Jewish Community, and it was funded mainly with the financial assistance of the International Order of B'nai B'rith. The hospital "adopted a program that emphasized the benefits of fresh air, good nutrition and rest." (6)

Regardless of where the funds came from, anyone was allowed to enter who needed help, so long as they couldn't afford to attend one of other sanatoriums.  (2)

The following rules were listed for those desiring admission: 
"The National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives at Denver is intended for the treatment of tubercular diseases only, among the indigent, in whom the disease is not sufficiently advanced to preclude the possibility of recovery or the arrest of the disease within the time, assigned for the treatment." (3, page 156)
Figure 2 -- Patients at National Jewish Hospital getting sun treatment
The neat thing about the hospital is the it was under the control of a National Board of Directors consisting of 35 members from principle cities around the United States.  When a patient wanted to be admitted, he'd have to have the endorsement of the local director, plus "be examined by a properly authorized physician of the city in which he lives." (3, page 156)

The examination form and the application were then submitted to the"Denver Board for action. Upon arrival in Denver, he (the patient) is at once admitted to the hospital, and re-examined by the admitting physician." The patients are then examined on a weekly basis. (3, page 156)

The hospital had a capacity for up to 65 patients, (4, page 322) and accepted both male and female patients of all ages. Patients may be married or single. Patients were generally admitted for six months, and examined every two months by their general physician.  Patients could stay longer than six months per recommendation by the medial advisory board.  No patient could stay longer than one full year.

Figure 3 -- National Jewish Hospital circa 1920s
The patients in the first three years admitted were of a variety of occupations, including six school children, many tailors, salesmen, and clerks.  Eight were cigar makers, and many more were laborers or worked in sweat shops in New York and Chicago.  (3, page 157)

Of these patients, 83% were admitted after an exacerbation caused by a cold picked up at work. Thus it was based on these statistics that poor hygiene was blamed for many cases, and hygienic rules for certain occupations, particularly tailors and sweat ships, were recommended to and passed by the New York Legislature.  (3, page 157)

Once a patient is admitted treatment is based on a per patient assessment, with one of the more common treatments being open air treatment.  For this reason many of the rooms are made so that they have windows for absorbing sun rays.  Patients have their sputum assessed upon admission and discharge, and weekly.  Patients are also weighed weekly.  (3, page 156)

Other treatments include:
"The climate, nutritious food, and personal hygiene, were mainly relied upon. Patients are encouraged to keep out of doors as much as possible, and to further this purpose, games are provided for their amusement, upon the porches and grounds surrounding the hospital. The food provided is the best the market affords, and is properly prepared. There are a number of special diets upon which the patients may be placed, as directed by the attending physicians, besides numerous extras, which may be ordered for the patients. It has been the aim of the staff to give particular attention to the quality and preparation of the food provided for the patients, and in this it has found the ready cooperation of the Board of Managers.
Figure 4 -- National Jewish Hospital today
"All patients are instructed in the danger that lies in communicating the disease through the sputa, and paper spit-boxes are provided for them, which they are required to carry with them in and around the hospital. They are not allowed to expectorate in or use handkerchiefs. Pieces of cheese-cloth, which can be cremated, are provided for their use. Various other measures to secure personal cleanliness are enforced. In regard to medication, no systematic attempt has as yet been made to use true specific medicines. Patients are treated symptomatically, and the majority of the attending physicians avoid the use of large numbers of drugs." (3, page 158)
When the hospital was first opened any patient with consumption was admitted, but this resulted in a high number of deaths in the first year.  This also  resulted in a tightening up of the admitting rules.  After the initial year, "only those in the early stages of pulmonary tuberculosis, who are likely, in the opinion of the admitting physician, to be improved bhospital treatment, have been admitted." (3, page 156)

According to the Denver Chamber of Commerce, by 1912, it is reported that about 75 percent of consumptive patients staying at the hospital benefit from the treatment provided. Of that 75 percent, up to 25 percent "regain permanent health." (5, page 16)

The Chamber advertised the hospital as benefiting consumptives due to the...
"high, dry altitude, with the maximum of sunshine, is the great remedial agent goes without saying. Situated one mile above sea level, protected by the Rocky Mountain range from cold winds in a latitude nearly parallel with Washington, D. C, Denver and vicinity offers almost unequalled attractions to the invalid; more specially those suffering from lung and throat trouble. The summers are delightful, hot in midday, but with remarkablv cool nights, and always cool in the shade, even in midday. Sunstroke is a thing never known, because of the dryness of the air. There is no dewfall at night; therefore, one can live out of doors in comfort all through the season from May 15th to October 15th. Indeed many invalids live in tents in winter as well as summer." (5, page 16)
Figure 5--
National Jewish wasn't the only tuberculosis sanatorium in Denver.
There were many others in the area, some of which were tent farms.
Tent farms were preferred by some because they were less expensive.
Plus, many also allowed accommodations for "invalids,"
or those victims in the end stages of disease. (5, page 16)
There were many others located around the U.S. and Europe.
Pictured here is the Nordach Sanatorium,
Austin Bluffs, Colorado in 1906
Compliments of Wikepedia
As I sit here typing this up I wonder how helpful these sanatoriums were at treating lung diseases, considering the limitations of the era. However, I would imagine they offered solace to those victims of lung diseases who otherwise had little or no home, and especially those who were weak and disabled and left to the streets.

While it was not the only sanatorium in Denver, let alone the west, what made National Jewish stand out were efforts in 1914 to open the first building outside a university with the specific goal of researching a cure for disease.

It was also special for opening a ward during the 1920's specifically for children suffering from lung diseases. By the 1930's the hospital had the capacity to hold hundreds of children of all ages with a disease called tuberculosis. So, this made it one of the few such institutions to provide a home and hope for people of all ages suffering from tuberculosis. By this time it was also a leader in its attempts to find better treatment and a cure for tuberculosis and other lung diseases that plagued society at the time.

  1. Gurock, Jeffrey S., ed., "American Jewish History," 1998, New York, vol. 3, part 3, pages 1095-6
  2. "The History of National Jewish,",
  3. Saling, Simon, "Report of Cases Examined for the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives, at Denver, Colorado," The Philadelphia Medical Journal, July 27, 1901, Volume III, July to December, 1901, Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Medical Publishing Company, page 156
  4. Solis-Colon, Solomon, "A system of physiologic therapeutics," volume IV, Book II, 1901, Philadelphia, P. blakiston
  5. "Denver and Vicinity as a Health Resort," Denver Today: Denver Chamber of Commerce, 1912, Denver, Colorado, Compiled and Published by the Denver Chamber of Commerce
  6. "National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives, University of Denver, Special Collections & Archives (Beck Archives), 
  7. another good reference

No comments:

Post a Comment