Last time, we examined the Pearson family’s real estate situation and learned that they did not own their farm outright, and were constantly re-mortgaging the farm. Five-year mortgages were apparently typical for this era, and it was not uncommon to make interest payments only during the term of the mortgage.
This time we’ll look at the medical bills that the family started paying when Will got sick.
I have in my collection of papers some cancelled checks from 1919. Here is a list:
|June 24, 1919||Dr. D. T. Quigley||$ 200.00|
|August 4, 1919||Dr. D. T. Quigley||$ 150.00|
|August 4, 1919||Burchmount Hospital [sic]||$ 13.00|
|October 3, 1919||Burchmount Hospital [sic]||$ 13.00|
|November 8, 1919||Dr. A. L. Dunn||$ 35.00|
|November 8, 1919||Hotel Conant [an Omaha hotel]||$ 12.40|
Clearly, these are all related to Will’s cancer treatments. It’s amazing what you can learn through internet searches…
From the April 1920 Nebraska State Medical Journal:
Dr. D. T. Quigley of Omaha has purchased the Birchmont Hospital at 34th and Farnam streets. He has changed the name to Radium Hospital and will conduct it for the treatment of cases of cancer, tumors and pre-cancerous conditions.”
From the “Radium” medical journal, Volume XV, Number 4 (July 1920), p. 68:
A new hospital to be called the Radium Hospital of Omaha, has been opened at Omaha, Nebraska, under the direction of Dr. D. T. Quigley. The hospital is completely equipped for the treatment of all conditions in which radium therapy alone or combined with other measures such as surgery, electrical methods, is indicated. The hospital contains fifty splendidly furnished rooms, and is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Dr. Quigley’s many years’ experience in radium therapy assures the success of his work.
(A few volumes of the old “Radium” journal are online through Google Books – fascinating reading.)
So it seems as though a brand-new cancer hospital opened in Omaha right at the same time that Will got sick. In fact, he was getting treatments there in summer 1919, before it had officially changed names and before the word got out in all the medical journals. The hospital specialized in radium treatments, and apparently radium was known to be a successful treatment for cancers of the mouth. It must have seemed like divine providence when Will and Clara first heard of it.
Dr. Quigley was a well-respected doctor and, from what I can tell, was published in many journals and spoke about his work around the country. He also spoke out against many of the quack radium therapies that were popular at the time.
The hospital was located in the old Charles Turner mansion at 3316 Farnham Street in Omaha. Today, the building is gone but the land is the site of the world headquarters of Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company.
From what I can tell, Will’s treatments probably consisted of tiny glass vials of radium being inserted directly into the cancerous area and left there for 30 minutes or so before being removed. Reading the through the Radium journals, it sounds like the standard protocol was three treatments. From the cancelled checks, it appears that he had at least two (June and August of 1919), and had some follow-up of some kind in October and November. I have no way of knowing whether the collection of cancelled checks is complete – there certainly may have been additional treatments and payments made.
But by February of 1920, he had given up hope and, as we saw earlier, made a visit to his attorney on a sad Monday morning with his Pastor at his side.
One final footnote – Dr. Quigley was the grandfather of actress Jane Alexander. The following shows up in a Google search, but the link doesn’t work and I’m too cheap to pay the Omaha World Herald to get the article out of their archives. Apparently Jane’s father, Thomas Quigley, was a doctor also but he ended up in Massachusetts, where Jane was born.