Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Fotos (February 15, 2013) – Two Cooke Sisters

Sisters -- Ruth E. Cooke (L) and Dorothy B. Cooke

This picture was taken on a family outing sometime around 1902 (notice the croquet mallets against the tree).  The little girl on the left is my maternal grandmother, Ruth Eaton Cooke.  The girl she has her arm around is her younger sister, Dorothy B. Cooke.

Dorothy B. Cooke

Ruth and Dorothy were two of the six children of Walter Wilson Cooke and his wife, Florence Leonette Flagg.  They had four girls and two boys between 1892 and 1904.  Only three girls survived beyond age seven and into adulthood.  Their mother "Nettie" died in 1904, the same year that her second son died.

The Cooke children were born in an era before the so-called miracle drugs (antibiotics) were developed to combat fatal bacterial infections.  Therapeutic penicillin use, for example, did not come about until after the 1929 publication of a paper by Dr. Alexander Fleming on how penicillin prevented growth of a neighboring colony of germs in a common petri dish.  Streptomycin was not isolated until 1943 at Rutgers University (my alma mater). 

Many of us have discovered that children of our ancestors died at shockingly young ages and often due to diseases or infections that today would rarely be fatal.  This is the fate that befell poor Dorothy, my grandmother’s younger sister.  Dorothy was born on December 6, 1899 in N. Attleborough, Massachusetts and died on January 7, 1907 at Massachuestts General Hospital in Boston.  She was barely seven years old.  As the death certificate below indicates, the primary cause of Dorothy's death was typhoid fever.  Typhoid was a common disease worldwide.  It is a bacterial infection and is usually transmitted by ingestion of water or food containing the bacterium Salmonella typhi.  The contributory cause of Dorothy's death was "purulent otitis media," which is a serious ear infection.  Her fatal illness lasted four weeks and must have been quite painful. 

Death certificate for Dorothy B. Cooke (January 1907)
Typhoid fever and deaths from it fell sharply -- especially in the developed world -- with greater understanding and implementation of sanitary techniques in the 20th century.  These days typhoid fever is usually not fatal when it does occur due to treatment with antibiotics.  Antibiotic treatment has reduced the fatality rate to about 1% of established cases.

The classical case of typhoid fever runs its course over four weeks and is divided into four stages or phases that each last about one week -- just as happened with poor little Dorothy.  It must have been horrible to watch as Dorothy and the medical personnel at Mass General fought for her life.  

The onset of the disease arrives with a slowly rising temperature accompanied by headache, cough, and, in perhaps 25% of cases, a bloody nose.  Abdominal pain is also often seen.

In the second week the victim of the disease runs a fever of perhaps 104 F.  The fever usually increases in the afternoon.  There is often a slowed heartbeat, frequent delirium and rose colored spots on the lower chest and abdomen in about 33% of those afflicted.  The abdomen is usually distended and painful and can be accompanied by diarrhea with a distinctive green color sometimes compared to pea soup.  The spleen and liver are enlarged and quite tender.

During the third week, things get worse for the poor victim.  Intestinal hemorrhage is seen.  Symptoms such as picking at bed linens or at imaginary objects can occur along with "muttering delirium."  Encephalitis (swelling of the brain) is also a complication that can be seen during the third stage of the disease.

From the third to the fourth and final phase of the disease, the fever remains quite high and steady over the day.  The victim becomes dehydrated and delirious until the fever begins to subside in the fourth and final week. 
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My connection to Dorothy B. Cooke

1.            Walter Wilson Cooke m. Florence Leonette Flagg
                        (1)  Helen Raeder Cooke (1892 - 1987)
                        (2)  Russell Cooke (1893 - 1894)
                        (3)  Lois Vinal Cooke (1894 -    )
                        (4)  Ruth Eaton Cooke (1897 - 1979)
                        (5)  Dorothy B. Cooke (1899 - 1907)
                        (6) Russell Church Cooke (1902 - 1904)

2.          Ruth Eaton Cooke m. Everett Shearman Carpenter (my grandparents)

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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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  1. That is a very sweet photo. I haven't any photos of my grandmothers or earlier ancestors as children. And you told a very sad story, too.

  2. Thank you Heather! I feel very privileged to have photos like these that put a face on many of my ancestors and relatives. The photos of ancestors and relatives from when they were very young hold a special fascination for me. I agree that Dorothy was a very sweet looking little girl. I knew my grandmother's older sisters Helen and Lois and wish I could have met the adult Dorothy too. I also wish I could have met my grandmother's brothers. I knew my grandmother for 27 years before she died and she never once mentioned having another sister named Dorothy -- or two brothers named Russell. My mother recently told me that my grandmother said she knew she would NEVER name a son of hers Russell because both her brothers named Russell died before they were three years old. When she did have a son, she named my uncle "David" -- from whom I get my middle name.