Sawbones: Tuberculosis


You've got a great look, we're not going to deny it. But think about how much better you could look if your cheeks were just a tad more sunken in, if you were just a tad more waif-like. This week on Sawbones, Dr. Sydnee and Justin are gonna help you get that freshly-infected-with-tuberculosis look.

You can subscribe to their show right now on iTunes! Then tweet about or follow the show on Twitter (@Sawbones) so all your friends and family can be as horrified and entertained as you.

Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers


Topic idea

Hey guys - I was listening to your episode on TB and was wondering if y'all might consider doing an episode on the history of HIV. I know it's a bit more recent than most of your topics, but there's still quite a lot to cover. As the only new epidemic to ever hit the US during my lifetime, I've found the history of HIV in America to be fascinating and sad.

Keep up the good work, guys! Great show.

possible show topic? - Edward Mordrake

I'm a big fan of the show and I always hear you ask for suggestions - now I finally have one!

Could you look into doing a show on Edward Mordrake who supposedly had a "demon head" on the back of his skull that spoke to him at night. I hadn't heard about him until recently and now I want to know whether this actually happened and if he actually existed! I know diprosopus actually exists, but could the extra face talk? Creepy!

Mammoth Cave info.

As a forensic anthropology student I did my senior thesis on TB in prehistoric populations, and have been fascinated with the disease ever since. You can imagine my delight when on a family vacation to Mammoth Cave, I discovered that TB patients had once "taken the cure" in the cave. My poor husband and children were dragged on the long tour so we could see the "hospital", and the poor ranger was subjected to at least a hundred of my ridiculous questions.
The story goes that the slaves who worked in the cave's mining operation were oddly immune to TB. When the cave was purchased by a doctor, he took this to mean that there was something about the cave air that caused the immunity. His theories were interesting, and not any crazier than some others of the time, but unfortunately did not pan out. The fact remains that very few of the slaves who worked in the cave (even with the TB patients), suffered from active TB. Maybe that makes Justin feel a bit better about the whole slave thing? Probably not.
Thanks so much for the great podcast, and congratulations!


Big fan of this podcast and of the McElroys!! Every Tuesday I eagerly await the upload of the new episodes so I can listen to it on the train home. Thanks for the amazing work so far!! Also, Just read an interesting article on artificial cranial deformation and think a show about this is right up your ally!!
Oh and Syndee congrats on being preggers!!!
lots of love from your number one fan in The Netherlands!


I have to be *that guy* and I hate it... but when you mentioned a musical based off of the book/opera 'La Boheme' and the TB plague that swept through Paris, I think you meant 'Rent' instead of 'Les Mis'. Not a big deal, but it's not like I'm using this theatre degree for anything useful anyways.

Love the podcast, love the chuckles, love all these wonderful diseases and disorders I get to add to my hypochondria list and I look forward to the next one!

I need TB! For my bunghole!

I need TB! For my bunghole!

Mammoth Cave!

I am enjoying the podcast very much. Maybe someday I will have a brilliant suggestion to make for a future episode. For now, though I shall simply share a story about Mammoth Cave that I found fascinating.

Patty Jo Watson is an archaeologist who led excavations in Salts Cave - part of the Mammoth Cave system. People had ventured into the caves, and scholars were trying to figure out the "why."

Watson came to hypothesize that the people were collecting salt deposits. She asked for volunteers from the archaeology graduate students, and those volunteers ingested some of the Salts Cave salts. It turns out that the salt was very effective as a stool softener.

My favorite archaeology professor told that story, and I was vastly amused by it - mainly by the graduate students who were willing to put their health on the line and the eventual result of those salts.

Congratulations!!! And about TB...

Saranac Lake, NY, where I live,was known throughout the late 1880's through the mid 20th century as THE place to take the fresh air cure, due mainly to the work of E.L. Trudeau who established here the first TB lab in the US. Because of his work, and because of the relative proximity to NYC which experienced enormous outbreaks of TB, cure cottages and sanatoriums were built all around this area of the Adirondacks. The wealthy and famous, including Robert Louis Stevenson,came here to breathe the cold air and rest.

And I mean cold: patients were wrapped in blankets and put outside on 'cure porches' in temps well below zero F. That, and the bland food might seem off-putting but convalescing in the Adirondacks was very fashionable and the young women and men who 'took the cure' had an opportunity to mingle that was not allowed in other social venues at the time.

Trudeau's lab was later endowed as an institute where research continues today. Andrea Barrett wrote a novel about the Saranac Lake sanatoriums a few years back called "The Air We Breathe." Here is a link with a little more info about Trudeau, who incidentally is Garry Trudeau's (think Donnesbury comics) great-grandfather: Thanks again for your great podcast!

Congrats on your upcoming baby!

Congratulations on your soon to be baby!

I grew up in Colorado Springs, home to many Sanitoriums. In fact, they were covered extensively in our mandated "Colorado History" class in Elementary school. They were a big boon to the economy, and was the start of Colorado Springs as a tourist destination. I found this cool blog about the Sanitorium Huts that the patients would live in (plus a ton of links to the actual history):

Somehow, up until this day, I thought that high altitude and dry air actually was a cure of a sort. Thanks elementary school history! :)


Can't think of anything clever, but congrats!