In 2011, 61 years after Ellen had been treated and cured of TB, she composed a 16-page, cathartic testimony for herself and her family about her young adult experiences at a western U.S. TB sanatorium.  She states that the facts of her TB treatment are simple, but the experience was not.  The friendships she made in the sanatorium were deep and long lasting, but she recalls that fear and indignities were part of her TB experience as well.

In Ellen's words...

Find out what things you can’t do and what things you can do. Because if you don’t ask, you assume you can’t do anything. Have contact with somebody who is recovering too because they know where you are.

Talk with somebody so you can avoid feeling so different, so separated. Let’s face it, you have to accept the fact that there are going to be ignorant people out there and to not let their ignorance define you. You can find your supportive people, but you have to go find them. It is a dark thing to go through by yourself.

The friendships I made at the sanatorium are unbelievable because we truly know each other.

We were all scared to death of our own disease, so consequently the TB sanatorium staff had a built-in weapon: our fear of our disease and a fear of the problems we could present to other people. They used that.

There is a distancing that I automatically had with people. Don’t get too close, and just the idea that ‘oh my God, did I make anyone sick?’ It was so devastating; it is more of a burden than you can believe. It skews your whole thinking as far as what is okay and what is not. How we were treated at the sanatorium reinforced it.

As patients of this TB sanatorium, we all were all candidates for counseling but no one received it. Our choices were totally taken away from us. You gave this right over to the staff because you wanted to get well. One of the things that we used as a barometer as far as whether we might be getting better mentally, forget about the physical, was that we would get together and see how long we could talk before the whole idea of the TB came up in conversation, to get some distance. Years after our treatment, one of my friends from the san said was asked her if she ever thought about her TB experience. She said, ‘Ever thought about it?? I still have nightmares.’ I still have nightmares too.

Ellen, Washington State resident