What disease does this sound like?


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Thread: What disease does this sound like?

  1. #1

    What disease does this sound like?

    This character has been sick for a while (months?), but she's been hiding it from most people, maybe even from her closest friends and the grandson who lives with her, but that's negotiable. She has been going to the best doctor in the area (think 19th century medicine), and he says there's nothing more he can do for her. Then one day she collapses (or something?) and it suddenly becomes common knowledge that she is dying. At that point, I want her to have a few days left.

    If I can put a name to this, I'm sure there are plenty of medical sites where I could get more details, but so far I don't really have anything to search for.

  2. #2
    Sounds like Tuberculosis or TB to me, if it's 19th century medicine. If your going on 19th century medicine, they didn't know much about TB, like they knew about it, but they didn't know about it. Scarlet fever, influenza, Chicken Pox, measles could be factors possibly.

    I mean I would need more description than "sick" to make a for sure "medical diagnosis" to be honest. Is she coughing? Losing weight? Visibly sick? Rashes? Sneezing? I need more info to make an educated guess here.
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  3. #3
    Well, since she knew to go to the doctor, and he knew there was nothing he could do, there must be symptoms that she at least could detect. But she is a public figure, and has succeeded in hiding this from most people until now. So it can't be anything too obvious. I suppose a rash would work, if it's not on her face or hands. There could be some weight loss or fatigue, just not enough to be noticed by people who have their own troubles to worry about. I think a persistent cough would catch people's attention, if only because they would be afraid it was "catching." Does that help?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Lorewen View Post
    Well, since she knew to go to the doctor, and he knew there was nothing he could do, there must be symptoms that she at least could detect. But she is a public figure, and has succeeded in hiding this from most people until now. So it can't be anything too obvious. I suppose a rash would work, if it's not on her face or hands. There could be some weight loss or fatigue, just not enough to be noticed by people who have their own troubles to worry about. I think a persistent cough would catch people's attention, if only because they would be afraid it was "catching." Does that help?
    Not really because that rules out Measles, Mumps, Scarlet Fever, TB and Influenza.

    I mean in the 1800s you couldn't "hide" a disease that would kill you that well.

    I suggest giving her Chorea with a dash of Huntington's disease.

    Huntington's would kill her because it is a disease that kills off brain cells around the age of 35-44. It can start around 20, but that's less than 8% of cases world wide. Now Huntington's disease was found in 1841 I think, and expanded on by George Huntington in the 1870's which makes it perfect for your book. A person's cognitive abilities literally wither away with this disease, but to an extent it is controllable. Maybe not enough for your time frame but it is controllable. The thing is that their mental behavior changes too (check the table)

    Here is a little chart that shows the symptoms of Huntington's disease:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Now I say add Chorea because they could actually detect Chorea. If this truly is the best doctor in the country then he could possibly make the correlation between Chorea and Huntington

    Chorea is a muscle disease that causes sudden, jerky, but controlled movements that are involentary, but they are easily hideable in their early stages, also Chorea is an inherited trait of Huntington's (which gives you a twoferone there.)

    So take your pick of symptoms and go to town with Huntington's

    Note: They wouldn't be able to detect Huntington's directly since it was found to be a genetic dominate trait through genetic testing in 1993, but people who had Chorea most likely had Huntington's. Chorea cannot kill you directly, Huntington's can.
    "He slides into second with a stand-up double." - Jerry Coleman
    "Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth." - Lou Gehrig
    "After Jackie Robinson, the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson." - Reggie Jackson
    "Your Holiness, I'm Joe Medwick. I, too, used to be a Cardinal." - Joe Medwick to Pope Pius XII
    "I think Tim Wakefield would even say tonight that Tim Wakefield got to Tim Wakefield tonight." - Tim McCarver

  5. #5
    TB is the 19th century disease but to get that collapse and demise I'd say cancer might be the better choice. Uterine cancer produces slight bleeding which would be alarming but private. Quick googling reveals some history available, but might need some library work to get it real. Should be there though.
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  6. #6
    I would suggest staying away from something that is communicable (passed from one person to another). Diseases that were known and contagious were well scrutinized since people were less likely to be cured. This would also keep you from having to explain why her son and others around her have not become ill, since many cause coughing, rashes, swelling and other signs. The exception to this would be sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis. She could have one for a long time, have a sudden onset of symptoms and have a lesser chance of passing it to her son or friends.
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  7. #7
    Member PSFoster's Avatar
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    Maybe a slow-growing tumor that causes discomfort. They would not know if it was a tumor without surgery because there were no X-rays. Were there no C-rays in this time period? Google when X-rays were available. Some small towns or villages would not have had them anyway. The doctor is confounded because he is treating symptoms but the patient is not getting better.
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  8. #8
    Member Amnesiac's Avatar
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    I'd go with pancreatic or liver cancer. Ovarian/cervical cancer is another possibility.
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  9. #9
    Consumption. Isn't that TB?

  10. #10
    Member Amnesiac's Avatar
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    Yes. Consumption is another term for tuberculosis.
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