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One family’s fight against TB enables a diamond celebration

10th March 2011

With World TB Day coming up on the 24th March, we heard a story of how TB has affected the family of one of our own staff:

Member Services Adviser, Sally Harris, recently celebrated her parents’ 60th wedding anniversary; however, this milestone seemed rather unlikely when they first got married in 1951.

Three years after they first met, Pat and Terry, Sally’s parents, were married in the Cornish village of St Breock, in what can only be describing as an unconventional wedding ceremony.

Both Terry and Pat had been struck down with Tuberculosis (TB); however, Terry’s condition was much worse than Pat’s and the doctor had only given him six months to live. Having fallen dangerously ill, Terry had no choice other than to attend the wedding ceremony and say his vows from a stretcher.

Now 82, Terry said: ‘I didn’t know I had been given six months to live until a few years later. Pat and my family thought that if they told me the prediction might come true. We said we weren’t going to let the disease push us around so we decided to get married while I was on a stretcher. My sister Doris was a serving sister with St John Ambulance, so one of their ambulances was my taxi to the church.’

TB has had a dramatic effect on Sally’s family history. Pat tragically lost her mother to the illness who died at the age of 25. When she died she left three little girls behind, Pat was only three at the time. A number of years later the disease struck again claiming the life of Pat’s youngest sister aged just 15. Pat met Terry whilst on a trip with her stepmother to see her stepbrother who was also in a hospital with TB, Terry was their driver.

Sally said: ‘TB has had a big effect on my family so I have always been aware of this disease and how dreadful it was. We now have powerful antibiotics but when my family was affected there was no cure. I am proud to work for the Society and of Benenden’s connection with TB. When the Society was first set up TB was a major killer especially amongst the working classes but because a very enlightened postal worker achieved such a fantastic thing as setting up the Society and the sanatorium, he gave his colleagues and their families a chance to beat TB in the fresh air of leafy Kent.’

Despite the turmoil TB has inflicted on the family Pat and Terry are still going strong, Terry said: ‘I don’t think there’s any secret to staying together for 60 years. If you’re lucky enough to find the right girl at the right time, it sticks. Obviously, the six-month prediction was wrong.’

We would like to wish Terry and Pat congratulations and best wishes for the future.

 

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