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The personal diary describing a patient's life in a British TB sanatorium in the 1940s reproduced in Raymond Hurt's article (July 2004 JRSM1) reminded me of Betty Macdonald's quite similar experiences in Seattle, Washington, recalled in her much neglected The Plague and I.2 Macdonald was also a patient in the 1940s and although quite different in temperament from Hurt's protagonist, she also was around thirty when first admitted, was the mother of two small children and was fortunate in having a supportive family. Also like Hurt's diarist, she gives a blow-by-blow account of clinical practice at the time. Macdonald's book, however, also contains rich descriptions of the psychosocial histories of the sanatorium's patients and staff as well as providing insight into the difficult adjustments such patients experienced upon their return to the world. Adjustments even more vividly described by Elizabeth Simpson in her account of recovery from tuberculous meningitis some thirty years later.3
These patients' stories deserve to be remembered not merely for what they teach us of history, but perhaps more importantly for what they say about the ways we all deal with recurrent illness.