Prodded by other historical posts, now seems to be the time to post this report – a truly amazing story of a doctor treating hypothyroidism. What was quite chilling was the matter-of-fact way he is told “Not, they said, that anything could be done... ”
In my opinion, if you find any interest at all, you should follow the link at the end and read the whole paper.
For anyone unaware, myxoedema is a term for hypothyroidism - often nowadays reserved for the most serious cases in which many of the classical symptoms are very obvious.
The treatment of myxoedema with raw sheep thyroid gland and its introduction into practice in County Londonderry in 1892
Mary S T Logan, J S Logan
Doctor David Thompson1 (1849 -1936), of Fincairn and Feeny in County London - derry, introduced the effective treatment of myxoedema to his neighbourhood in late 1892 or early 1893. He received the degree of BA from the Queen's University in Ireland in 1871, (Queen's College, Galway), and then qualified in medicine in 1873 (LRCP and S, LM, Edinburgh). In 1874 he was appointed dispensary doctor to the Feeny dispensary district. He held the post, and carried on his general practice, until 1928 when he was 79. Poor Law patients were seen at the dispensary, or, if too ill to attend, then in their homes. Other patients came to his family home in Fincairn. For many years he went about his rounds on horseback. It is said that he did the first cataract operation in that part of County Londonderry, on an old blind beggar woman. It was done on a kitchen table, with a local helper, one supposes to hold her head.
One day, when he was visiting a man with a broken leg, the neighbours asked him if he would speak to a poor woman who was dying. Not, they said, that anything could be done, because others of the family had died in exactly the same way. He went in to see her and found that she had advanced myxoedema. One wonders what form of familial myxoedema had afflicted the kinship, if indeed the family history was true. By a happy chance Thompson had recently read in his British Medical Journal (he was member of the Association) a report of the first successful treatment of myxoedema by the oral feeding of sheep thyroid gland. He at once obtained some thyroid gland from the slaughterhouse, presumably sheep's, and started her on it. She made a miraculous recovery. After that, until the dried preparation was commercially available, he always kept her supplied with fresh thyroid gland. When he was on holiday, he arranged for it to be got for her till he came home. What Thompson had read in his farmhouse home in Fincairn, that remote townland in County Londonderry, were the reports of H W G Mackenzie2 of London and E L Fox3 of Plymouth in the British Medical Journal of the 29th October 1892.