Title: Letters from Sadie: Letters Written by Sadie Claire (Marcum) Montgomery from the Norton, Kansas, Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1932-1933)
Author: Darla Hedrick Quinn
Publisher: WestBow Press
Genre: Memoir/Medical Memoir
Reviewed by: Gabriella Harrison
Darla Hedrick Quinn’s Letters from Sadie: Letters Written by Sadie Claire (Marcum) Montgomery from the Norton, Kansas, Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1932-1933) is powerful and insightful. The plight of the terminally ill and elderly who are forced to move into special centers to be properly catered for is laid bare with vividity. It is improbable that anyone can read this book and not develop a newfound appreciation for life and good health.
Darla, who served as the primary caretaker for her mom, Mary, while she resided in three assisted-living facilities for over a decade, wrote this book to share her experience and that of her mom and her grandmother, Sadie, who suffered from and ultimately died of tuberculosis. The dedication that went into compiling this guide for caregivers to ensure its comprehensiveness is admirable.
In 1932, when Sadie’s condition became unbearable, she knew she had to admit herself into a sanatorium. Although she didn’t want to be separated from her husband and five young children, her love for her family and fear of them contracting the disease was enough to make her board a train and take this difficult step. Unfortunately, she didn’t recover from this condition and died in 1933 in her early forties. The book also emphasizes the crucial role loved ones play during trying times. It was Sadie’s younger sister, Ree, who stepped in to raise her children. The inclusion of pictures of family members, loved ones, the facilities, and the letters Sadie wrote to her family while in the sanatorium, preserved in their original state, makes for a poignant read.
The importance of a strong support system cannot be overemphasized. In Sadie’s letters, she constantly stated her desire to know what was happening at home, and even minor events were very important to her. She was often hurt and upset when she didn’t receive a letter, and she would put herself under severe strain to ensure she penned a letter to her family, even while struggling to breathe and see through her swollen eyes. It is essential to visit as frequently as possible and ensure they have all they need to feel loved and encouraged to keep going. It is sad when a loved one feels forgotten once they find themselves in such a situation. Darla and her brother ensured their mother, Mary, lived as comfortably as possible, even as her body system was failing, and she couldn’t move around on her own anymore. They were always anticipating what she would need and looking for solutions to the problems that kept arising. When hearing became difficult for her, they got her hearing aids and headphones so she could continue watching her shows without disturbing other residents. When her eyesight became poor, they bought her glasses, a magnifying glass, a big screen and moved her close to it, etc.
Letters from Sadie: Letters Written by Sadie Claire (Marcum) Montgomery from the Norton, Kansas, Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1932-1933) is an impactful and thought-provoking book that will linger in the mind long after the last page has been read.