Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Elizabeth "Libby" Bissonnette Wills and her Thyroid Gland.

In the 1900 Federal Census, she is listed "Libbie", 19 years old  her occupation was "overseamer" in a cotton mill. She could play the organ. She could sew. She was a French Canadian daughter who, on 23 August 1903,  married a man whose parents came to America from Cornwall.  She was Catholic; he was Anglican. They had nine children.  When grandfather didn't bring home the bacon (he spent the paycheck at the corner saloon), she provided for her children by taking in laundry and sewing.  She was the grandmother I never new.  A lovely and attractive girl who aged with the birth of every child, developing a large goiter in the days before there was a medical treatment.

Sometime in midlife she developed a goiter which is visible in the pictures below.  Look at her neck and you can see the goiter.

In the next photo, Libby is standing in the back row, third person from the left.....the goiter is quite visible.

 Chronic Myocarditis was listed as the primary cause of death on her death certificate.  "Exophthalmic Toxic Goiter" was listed as the contributory cause.  The certificate also states she had "partial removal of the thyroid in 1935".

She died on February 1st, 1936 when she was 55 years old.  As far as I know, she had 23 grandchildren; she lived long enough to know 7 of those grandchildren.  

Libbie Bissonnette Wills sitting amongst two of her daughters and six of her grandchildren.

Did Libby have iodine deficiency-induced goiter or did she have what today we know as Hashmoto's Thyroiditis?   Cohoes, New York  was not known as iodine deficient area as was the "Goiter Belt" of Michigan so perhaps Libbie suffered from the later.  If her thyroid gland was removed  in 1935 as her death certificate states and she did not receive the correct thyroid supplementation, she would have deteriorated steadily which she did - succumbing the the early months of 1936.  Supplementation with thyroid hormone first became available in the 1930s.

Today we know regulating under or over active thyroid hormone secretion (Hypoactive or Hyperactive) is a delicate balance with a host of medical interventions for different thyroid pathology dictated by third generation laboratory testing, irradiation for overactive thyroid, or iodine supplementation in geographic areas where iodine is not naturally available.  In 1935-1936, there was still much to be learned about the thyroid and its mysteries.

Libbie standing outside her home at 261 Central Avenue, Cohoes, NY

Here's the complete sequence of stories about illnesses and disease in our families...

1 comment:

  1. ok so i cried after reading that Libbie played the organ. WOW. GRAMPA loved the organ? its funny how traits pass and you dont even realize it . GREAT WORK MB! <3 ya robin