Friday, August 17, 2012

Robert Stewart Gardiner 1869 - 1871

Beatrice Lenore Gardiner:

"In February 1870 spring came, or so it seemed to them and they moved into a dugout up in one of the many ravines on the East Bench. Here Robert built a huge adobe furnace and started his candy making. He would carry a sack of sugar home on his shoulder at night, make candy all night, and take it downtown (on his shoulder again) the next morning, bringing another sack of sugar back.

One day while he was downtown, a regular river came down the ravine and washed everything out of the dugout before Margaret could even get the baby out. She hurried to get him out on the hill where it was dry but the bedding was soaked, the precious sack of sugar was washed away; the flour had caked on the sack so hard that it was saved. That was enough dugout for them, but the baby took pneumonia and died."

While it may be true that the baby, Robert Stewart Gardiner, caught pneumonia, he did not die from it.  According to the death record, Robert Stewart Gardiner died about a year later from canker.  Nathan

Medical Terms Used by Saints in Nauvoo and Winter Quarters, 1839–48
Douglas C. Heiner, Evan L. Ivie, and Teresa Lovell Whitehead

Canker (Latin cancer or cancrum, “a crab”): Refers to an ulceration, usually in the mouth. In the presence of malnutrition, debilitation, or immune deficiency, it may spread and cause tissue destruction, gangrene, and an agonizing death. Fortunately, the amount of pain experienced by patients with fatal canker is relatively small. In pioneer times the gangrene often turned tissues black, in which instance the disease was called “black canker.” Without antibiotics or adequate nutrition, progressive canker or cancrum oris was fatal in about 95 per- cent of cases, usually within one to three weeks of its recognition. Today this condition still occurs in countries where there is severe poverty and malnutrition.6 Several diseases which weaken the immune system can add to the effects of malnutrition and debilitation, increasing the risk of progressive canker. These include measles,7 gastroenteritis,8 scurvy,9 AIDS,10 and, in the case of children, an initial or primary herpes virus infection in the mouth.11 The beginning of the disease may look like simple aphthous stomatitis (common canker in the mouth). However, when it progressed into tissue necrosis or gangrene as a result of one or more of the above predisposing factors, the end result was usually the patient’s demise. Malaria, whooping cough, and severe diarrhea in all likelihood enhanced susceptibility in early Nauvoo and Winter Quarters. We have noted that the majority of fatalities caused by these diseases in Nauvoo coincided with the season of peak canker deaths. Indeed, any serious ongoing disease probably contributed to the risk of developing lethal canker in subjects with severe malnutrition. Canker deaths did, and still do, occur predominantly in young children.12 The years of maximal susceptibility (ages one to seven) are years when the immune system is not yet fully mature and passive protection from mother’s breast milk is waning or has gone.

Nowadays if the disease process is arrested through the administration of appropriate antibiotics and correction of malnutrition, the patient is left with debilitating scar tissue and disfiguration, often requiring heroic reconstructive plastic surgery.13 Unfortunately the early Saints had no antibiotics and all too often did not obtain adequate nutrition.14 They had little knowledge about what caused canker. Centuries ago, the condition was erroneously thought to be a cancer, hence the term cancrum. Later, in Great Britain, the commonly used terms were “mouth canker” and “noma.” Early Saints from England probably introduced the terms “canker” and “black canker” to other pioneers in describing this fatal condition. At present the four generally accepted medical terms for the condition are: cancrum oris, gangrenous, stomatitis, necrotizing ulcerative stomatitis, and noma. Some authorities consider noma to be the preferred name.

The disease usually begins on the gums inside the mouth, then progresses and spreads gangrene. It causes necrosis (death) of adjacent tissues, including bone and skin. If not treated by the administration of good nutrition and antibiotics, death ensues. One can see from the photos above that even if the disease is arrested, major reparative surgery may be needed.