Sunday, June 8, 2014

I can confirm George M Conant of Middletown NJ was third antibiotic patient in history !

A page one story in the Middletown Times Herald * of June 2nd 1941 recounts the details of flour mill salesman George M Conant's long and very dramatic  battle against subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE).

 That battle unfortunately ended in death, in New York City's Columbia-Presbyterian "Medical Center" on May 31st 1941.

Small town newspaper journalists everywhere , all take a bow : because this is the very first report, ever , detailing the fate of an individual patient receiving our now routine "antibiotics".
The story says his trials began December 9th 1940 in the local (Horton) hospital and that in early January 1941 he was transferred to CUMC .

There Dr Martin Henry Dawson was making history , pioneering the use of penicillin as an antibiotic  - working full out to try and save the lives of patients with 'invariable fatal' SBE .

Gladys Hobby's eyewitness book (Penicillin - Meeting the Challenge) on early penicillin records (on page 73) that Conant first got penicillin injections from Dawson on January 18 1941 , a course running until January 26th, a total of 36 ml over 16 day period.

Now this report of Conant's death came a month after  Dawson delivered his famous May 5th 1941 report on his pioneering use of penicillin injections to treat three patients dying of SBE.

(Today , you can best think of SBE as the "deadly" part of grandmother's often repeated phrase "deadly Rheumatic Fever".)

So , at the time of his report in the New York Times, two out of his three SBE patients treated with his historic penicillin were still alive --- but he still displayed a welcome caution about exaggerating the value of these initial results.

Middletown's newspaper makes no mention of Dawson or penicillin but their dates match up closely to the dates found in Hobby's book about Dawson's third patient to receive penicillin-the-antibiotic , "Mr Conant" .

I don't doubt I will be able to locate Mr Conant's descendants.

 (His wife Marabelle (Erickson) Conant was born about 1908 and here is a photo of her from 1942. She has probably passed on.

Marabelle (Erickson) Conant , Middletown NY

George also left three daughters : Delores Conant born about 1932 , Edith Conant born about 1933 and Gloria Conant born about 1937.

(These three women are in their late seventies and early eighties.)

I intend to invite them to the 75th anniversary celebrations of the dawn of the Age of Antibiotics October 16th 2015 in New York.

Hurray !

Another patient or team member now located, four located already and only two more to go...

* Middletown is a community in Orange County, in upper New York State - a long long way from the normal mile or two catchment area for the poorest patients in  the Medical Center's public wards.

So I might have to cast my nets wider to locate Aaron Alston and Charles Aronson - I had assumed they had come from a mile or two around the Center's upper Manhattan location.

Time for a re-think.

Though I still do believe I am on the right track.

 Gladys Hobby referred to George only as "Mr Conant" while the other two were mentioned by their first names and this hints to me that Conant might have been a middle class paying patient.

He might well then have come from a much further distance away - while the two other initial patients were of a local socio-economic status and came close by.

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