Sunday, April 8, 2018

Terrible coincidences - a mother and daughter

I had some time tonight to do my own genealogy (yay!) and wanted to look into my wife's 3rd-great-grandmother, Augusta (Gast) Smith. I'd gotten a message recently from a DNA match to my father-in-law, who had some info on Augusta I wanted to corroborate, so I went digging.

I found that I didn't have a death certificate for Augusta, just an extraction from some La Porte County, Indiana health records with her death date. While looking for an actual death certificate (which I hoped would name her parents), I found her mentioned on the death certificate for her daughter, Olive Myrtle (Smith) Bloomhuff. Olive died on May 10, 1930 at the young age of 46. The cause of death was listed as: "death post operative: mid-thigh amputation. Elephantiasis lymphangiectatica." The words I could understand were awful enough - having a leg amputated at the mid-thigh due to some form of elephantitis-type disease. I did a little more digging, and if I'm reading things correctly, the disease she died of was filariasis, a disease caused by an infestation of filarial worms in the lymphatic system. The worm larvae are often transmitted by mosquito bites, and the infection directly leads to elephantiasis. Talk about an awful way to go. No info is given on the duration of the disease, so I can only hope she didn't have to suffer long.

Having found this information, I wanted to find Augusta's death certificate and see if she had a less traumatic cause of death. After looking through Indiana death certificates for a bit, I found hers. Augusta passed away on February 16, 1910 at the age of 47, very close to the age her daughter was when she died. The cause of death was difficult to make out, but thanks to the eagle eyes of Judy Russell, I learned how Augusta passed away. Her cause of death was listed as: "hemorrhage during operation to remove a tumor fr Large Fibroid and large Ovaries" (with nephritis, a kidney inflammation, contributing). Immediately I saw the similarity - she went in for an operation, which ultimately caused her death. A mother and daughter, similar in age, similar cause of death. Two tragedies, decades apart, yet so similar it's eery.

To be clear, I have nothing but respect and admiration for those in the medical profession (including my brother and sister). Having spent time in hospitals, I don't know how those who choose that profession can handle doing what they have to do, including sometimes seeing a patient die, not to mention having to be the person that has to pass that news to the patient's family. I have seen firsthand how difficult their job can be, and the effort, energy, and devotion that is put into efforts to save a person's life. It just surprised me to see that a mother and daughter left this world under circumstances that were so similar. I wonder what Augusta and Olive's family thought of those circumstances, and how they dealt with the losses.

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