Arizona Daily Star documents how TB era shaped Tucson; Former patient recalls her struggle with TB

Amanda Place lives in Arizona today because of tuberculosis.

Her family headed to Tucson from West Virginia, hoping the dry air would be a strong counter to the fluid building up in her mother’s lungs. The family’s move was part of an era documented in the Arizona Daily Star today.

It wasn’t to be. When Place was 11, she lost her mother to tuberculosis. The family had struggled with tuberculosis tragedy earlier since Place’s grandmother also was lost to tuberculosis as a young woman in her 30s.

Tuberculosis once ran rampant in communities across the country, leading to a wholesale influx of families to Tucson. That era is captured in a move to obtain historic designation for three buildings on the campus of Tucson Medical Center which played a role in treating victims of the affliction.

Place herself would be diagnosed when she was 14 years old, in 1961.

She contracted the illness from her mother, but never knew she was sick until she started coughing up blood.

Stricken with what doctors feared could be a terminal case of tuberculosis, Place spent six weeks at Tucson Medical Center. She was in the hospital so long, that she went in an only child, but had five siblings upon her return, since her widower father had remarried.

She spent another six weeks on bed rest, and about 18 months later, had lung surgery to remove part of her lung that bore the remnants of the illness.

Classmates would visit, wearing masks and standing in the doorway.

“I wasn’t told until many years later how close I was to dying,” she remembered. “My father was very frightened.”

It took Place five years to get out of high school and three to get out of college, so it all evened out, she jokes.

Place has fully recovered and has no lingering effects and said she is grateful to the TMC staff who helped save her life during those trying times. Although she is supposed to be careful about high altitudes, she recently hiked Machu Picchu in Peru.

“I was incredibly fortunate that treatment was available and that space was available,” said the grandmother of five. “My three children are very happy that there was a happy ending!”

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