Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Diphtheria

  • Picasso and medicine: From early paintings to a syndrome

    Michael YafiHouston, Texas, United States Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881–1973) was known for his love of the good life. Reportedly, his last words were “Drink to me!” But early in his life, Picasso witnessed sick and dying friends and relatives in his hometown of Malaga, Spain, and was haunted by the deaths of his sisters. Cholera,…

  • The use of force in medicine

    Angad TiwariIndiaMallika KhuranaJapan William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), regarded as “the most important literary doctor since Chekhov,” was an American Pulitzer prize-winning writer and poet who stands amongst the few full-time practicing physicians to have achieved literary distinction.1 He regarded art and medicine as “two parts of a whole,” and the intimate doctor-patient interface proved a…

  • Catching Your Death: Infectious rain in the works of Jane Austen

    Eve ElliotDublin, Ireland Fans of the Netflix romp Bridgerton or any of the Jane Austen film adaptations will likely be familiar with the important social etiquette of inquiring after someone’s health. Unlike the modern throwaway how are you, people in the English Regency era1 had a genuine interest in the health of family and friends.…

  • George Crile Sr., founder of the Cleveland Clinic

    Portrait of G. W. Crile. Credit: Wellcome Collection. (CC BY 4.0) Early days George Crile was an exceptional man, a skilled surgeon who lived at a time when American medicine was emerging from its horse and buggy period and was embracing the principles of aseptic surgery and scientific medicine. Always full of new ideas, he was…

  • Children treating children: Anne Shirley as clinician

    Kathryne DycusMadrid, Spain Childhood classics provide a range of illness narratives, reminding readers of dangers now preventable and even treatable, but also of the universal imperatives of understanding and accommodating the morbidity and mortality that can accompany childhood. Sickness in children’s literature, as in medicine, presents dramatically colorful dimensions of plot twist, character development, human…

  • Intubation for diphtheria

    In 1904 diphtheria was a dangerous killer that suffocated its victims by obstructing the respiratory passages and sometimes required an emergency but dangerous surgical tracheostomy. In this painting a specialist in infectious diseases is avoiding tracheostomy by inserting a tube to bypass the obstruction. He is observed intently by interested physicians, all watching this new…

  • How conflict and bureaucracy delayed the elimination of yellow fever

    Edward McSweeganKingston, Rhode Island, United States The Golden Age of Bacteriology (1876–1906) saw the emergence of techniques to cultivate bacterial pathogens and develop vaccines and anti-toxin therapies against them. The new bacteriologists rapidly identified the agents causing anthrax, gonorrhea, typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera, tetanus, diphtheria, plague, and other infectious diseases. One microbe that remained stubbornly elusive…

  • El garrotillo: On diphtheria and Goya

    Vicent RodillaValencia, Spain Diphtheria is a bacterial infectious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae that affects mostly children. Although by 2017 some 85% of infants worldwide have been vaccinated for DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis), some 19.9 million children remain unvaccinated.1 According to the World Health Organization, reported cases of diphtheria have decreased from nearly 100,000 in 1980 to…

  • “The Grasshopper” by Chekhov: folly and regrets

    Diphtheria in the days of writers such as Chekhov and Goncharov was a common disease that spread death and devastation across the wide expanse of the Russian Empire. It could kill its victims by its toxic effects on the heart but more often suffocated them with a grayish white membrane in their throat and nasal…