Rachel E. Rittenhouse, author

Behind the Scenes – About Cholera

Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Behind the Scenes – About Cholera

School was pretty sorrowful today. Farren is sick with cholera. I could hardly believe it when I found out the news. I mean, I just saw her at church and now she is dreadfully sick. As soon as Bethy, Laura, and I got home, I told Momma about it. She turned quite pale and said that we would not be going to school anymore. Laura jumped up and down with excitement, but Bethy and I were thoroughly disappointed. I wanted to ride over to Kirsten’s to see if Aunt Maria was having her stay home too, but Momma quickly said, “No, Carolyn. It’s best to stay put. Cholera’s a dangerous sickness; not one to mess around with.” I said nothing more on the subject and helped Momma make supper. 

Carolyn and Momma

Cholera was a dangerous sickness from bacteria that was transmitted by water or food. Usually many people of small communities caught it, especially from a shared water source. The symptoms included dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, and the skin turning a bluish/grayish color.  Many people died from cholera, and Momma was right to be worried about her children catching it. Cholera was not a sickness to be fooling around with. Even though it was not “contagious” in a sense, it could be transmitted by close contact with people who had the sickness.

Carolyn and her family are kept busy when cholera spreads to their house as well.  All dishes and items used by the sick person must be boiled in order to prevent contamination to other family members. Because cholera patients usually get dehydrated, keeping fluids in them is vital. There was always a pot of chicken broth at the stove and Carolyn even tried mint tea as well.

As time passed on and the doctor still hadn’t come by, Carolyn took it upon herself to try some of her own herbal remedies. She tried both mint and garlic spreads and placed it on her patients’ chests hoping to sooth them. As you read the book, you will find that Jesse was not found of having garlic spread upon him and even found the strength to protest it, despite being sick!