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Sunday, February 28, 2010
A brave nurse was willing to risk death from a mosquito bite.
The world in the 1880s was a difficult one for Clara Maass. As the oldest of nine children, she had to help care for her brothers and sisters and had little time for play. When she was twelve years old, Clara Maass did not dream that one day she would be an American heroine. Because her parents were so poor, Clara had taken a job as a mother's helper. She lived with another family and cleaned their home and took care of their children. In return for her work, she received her meals, a bed, and time to attend school. Somehow she managed to complete three years of high school.
Clara tried to help her own family in any way she could. At fifteen, she found a paying job with an orphanage. Most of her wages were sent home to her mother. At the age of sixteen, Clara learned that a nearby hospital wanted to train young women as nurses. Also, there would be no charge for the training. Clara visited the hospital to inform the head nurse that she wished to study nursing. Although a school regulation required students to be at least twenty, Clara was accepted.
She studied hard and worked hard. She learned how to maintain hospital standards and how to distribute medicine to patients. After her graduation she continued working at the hospital where she had been trained. She was such a good nurse that hospital officials promoted her to the position of head nurse. In 1898, war started between the United States and Spain. Cuba was the battlefield, and the United States Army was in need of nurses. Many soldiers who had not been wounded in combat were dying of tropical diseases. Clara volunteered to be an army nurse and hoped the army would summon her to a military camp. At last she was ordered to Florida.
She enjoyed her work and shared a tent with three other nurses at the camp. Then she was sent to Georgia and finally to Cuba.
Clara had never before been in a foreign country, and Cuba was very different from her home in New Jersey. The tropical birds and flowers fascinated the young nurse. The swarming insects were less appealing.
While in Cuba, she witnessed yellow fever for the first time. No one knew what caused the dreaded disease, which could be fatal. Its victims suffered aches and pains, and their skins usually turned yellow. Doctors did not know how to prevent or treat the illness.
When Clara's work in Cuba ended, she returned to the New Jersey hospital. Then the army summoned her to the Philippine Islands where she nursed troops for seven months. While there, she caught a disease which the natives called "breakbone fever." Every bone and muscle in her body ached. Doctors ordered her back to New Jersey to recover.
In 1900, the United States Army appointed a group to 38 determine how yellow fever spread and how to cure it. After months of experiments, army doctors in Cuba believed they had found the answers. Mosquitoes that had bitten yellow fever victims spread the disease by biting healthy people. The doctors' next step was an attempt to kill all the deadly insects on the island.
Nurses were needed to care for the sick in Cuba. In response to a request, Clara asked to be sent there. She was now twenty-five years old and planning to marry. She knew, however, that her experiences with yellow fever victims would be helpful to the doctors.
Back again in Cuba, Clara learned that yellow fever experiments had not stopped. Some doctors still doubted that mosquitoes spread the disease. Some thought it would be impossible to rid the country of the insects. Others were trying to find a cure for the fever. They needed people who were willing to be bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease. All the volunteers for this experiment, but one, were Cuban men. That one was Clara Maass, the only American and the only woman to risk her life in the tests.
The young nurse had watched many yellow fever patients suffer and die. Knowing how terrible the disease could be, she wanted to do whatever she could to help doctors prevent it. Army regulations said that money would be distributed to those who took part in the tests. Clara planned to send the money she earned to her mother.
On June 24, 1901, Clara calmly watched a mosquito bearing yellow fever bite her hand. Within a few days she developed a slight case of the sickness. Doctors informed her that she could catch the disease again because her illness had been such a mild one.
Clara's response was to volunteer to be bitten again in August. Already in a weakened condition, she became seriously ill. Never, even when she had been sick in the Philippines, had she experienced such pain. Her skin turned yellow, and there was little hope that she would live.
Doctors tried to save her, but Clara died on August 24, 1901. All doubts that mosquitoes spread the disease came to an end and the tests were stopped because of their dangers. For a few days, newspapers told the tale of Clara's brave sacrifice. Then she seemed to be forgotten. The army killed most of the mosquitoes in Cuba and yellow fever almost disappeared.
Fifty years later the yellow fever heroine was again remembered, and Cuba issued a stamp in her honor. In 1952, the hospital in New Jersey changed its name to Clara Maass Memorial Hospital. In 1976, seventy-five years after her death, the United States issued a stamp with Clara's picture. At last, Clara Maass has been honored for her great sacrifice.
1. Clara Maass studied hard to become _______
2. While in Cuba, Clara witnessed yellow fever which _____
3. When Clara was twenty-five, ________ >
4. Yellow fever almost disappeared in Cuba when _______
5. Yellow fever would be mentioned in a book of _______
6. Clara Maass was remembered most recently ________
7. Cuba is _______
8. Most of the people who volunteered for the yellow fever experiment were _______
9. Another name for this story could be _______
10. This story is mainly about ______
Posted by John Robinson at 9:09 AM