Saturday, September 18, 2010

"JUVENIS RUMPO" : curing RHD, Rheumatic Heart Disease

Another name for Rheumatic Heart Disease, which until the 1950s was our biggest single heart disease, is JUVENIS RUMPO , which can be loosely translated as "Youth ,Interrupted" .

Every mother ,between the 1910s to the 1960s, had to worry about about whether her children would have to endure the consequences of a severe case of acute rheumatic fever.

Some kids got lots of bouts of strep throat but never got rheumatic fever (RF) - others got it so gently that after the fever, sore joints or jumbled nervous system had gone, they had no reminders - and the disease never came back.

Other children got the disease - once - and  quickly died . End of story, almost.

Because if one child got it bad enough to die of it, it certainly meant your remaining children might also have the slight but definite genetic affinity for RF.

Similarly, even moms who had one child with a gentle case knew this didn't mean others in the family couldn't get the worse case possible.

And the fact that 4 kids of five didn't get RF ever, didn't mean number five child won't get it bad.

It was the uncertainty as to who and when , and how badly, and how frequently, someone in your family could get RF that made it a Sword of Damocles to all moms in that era.

Stage two worries were almost as bad.

Your child or children did get acute RF and didn't die.

Unfortunately, surviving one attack did not give immunity as it does in most diseases - in fact it means you are likely to get it again but even more intensely.

Get it again and again, each worse than before and you are certain to die.

That's death by acute RF.

More likely by the 1930s, was that you would survive even repeated bouts of acute RF.

But the permanent scars left on your heart muscle and heart valves meant that your mom would fret that if you played sports or did anything too vigorously - including romantic engagements.

It was felt that sexual intercourse might--- and pregnancy and child birth definitely would --- tax your heart murmur and bring on SBE (endocarditis) and death.

So ironically, Mom would take all the joys of youth out of your life in a loving attempt to bring you to adulthood alive.

But why bother if everything a young person liked to do, wanted to do, needed to do, was forbidden ?

This is why RHD was so frequently called Juvenis Rumpo .

 Not because RHD killed outright all the young people it effected - it never did kill more than a relatively small number - but because of the huge pall it hung over  the 'best years of their lives' for tens of millions of North American teenagers between 1910 and 1960 .

Fear of the Sword of Damocles was more damaging than the actual possibility it would really fall on a vital spot.

Dawson never did get to enjoy his youth times because he
volunteered to serve in the trenches of WWI.

His life mission was to see that as many other young people as possible did not see their youth be interrupted.....

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