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Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Chest symptoms

Question: World War I death mystery- help please.

 monsieurdl - Thu Feb 14, 2008 8:40 am

Hello. My great uncle was in the World War, and I am completely lost when it comes to medical issues. Here is what I have:

In May of 1917, he was brought in as having trench fever and was cleared in July of 1917. In August of 1917, he complained that when bending forward of stooping he felt pain in his back, knees, right shoulder, headaches, and was tender throughout his body. No improvement was shown even after vapor baths and massages on alternate days for many months, and was eventually released January of 1918 to a rehabilitation center, still complaining of lumbar pain, shoulder, headaches, and shin pain. It is listed as myalgia chronic positive. Walks with limp on left leg. Pain runs down to knee at nights, all pain worse at night. No vomiting or abdomen pain. Heart and lungs were normal. He left the center October of 1918, still with pain.

In April of 1919, he was seen by a medical board. In that board's record, he is listed as having DIMINUTION RESPIRATORY POWER and BRONCHITIS due to exposure. He received it in January of 1919 while in Germany. The record says that he had a scar running from his lip down his cheek that as not there before. There is no area of dullness over either lung, breath sounds are normal and heard at any place over either lung. There are a few ?rates? over chest in front. Frequent reports of sputum say "No T.B. found". Heart is normal in size shape and rhythm. Vascular sounds aere normal. Temp remains normal. Man states that he eats well, sleeps well, coughs slightly, expectorates slightly, does not have rigors, but is in a more delicate condition than before joining up. He has lost the strength and energy which he formerly posessed.

June 28th, 1919:
The man states that he was much afflicted on the journey south from Germany and that he developed a cough on this journey. He never reported sick and was sent to hospital by standing med board at Bramshott when he was paraded for return to Canada with his division. The board asked for him to be treated for his chest condition and for observation as to underlying cause. He had a slight temp on admission, but it had been normal for 8 days.

That is what I have- constant sputum and urine tests came up 'No T.B.', and yet he was found to have died of either phthisis or pulmonary tuberculosis March 24th, 1921. I would greatly appreciate anyone who could explain what happened, or offer an alternate cause. Thank you so very much!
 Dr. A. Madia - Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:18 am

User avatar Hi,

From the history that you have stated it seems that your great uncle had chronic cough, expecroration, loss of strength and stamina, body pains, fatigue, occasional fever. He was also found to have 'rales' on his chest meaning a sound called 'crepitation' was heard on his chest while listening with a stethoscope.

These set of symptoms and signs COULD result from a pulmonary tuberculosis. Testing the sputum for TB is not always positive even in a confirmed case of TB. Having said this, these symptoms could go either way like chronic bronchitis with bronchiectasis can also have a similar picture.

It is very difficult to precisely give a reason for your uncle's disease after all these years just from some fragmented medical history.

 monsieurdl - Tue Mar 11, 2008 5:57 pm

Thank you so much- I figured that since the most basis of tests were only available during this time, that it could be possible. All I have is the reports and his symptoms, and from what you have said I feel much better knowing something more. I know that all I have is fragments, but at least now I know more than I did before!

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