During the first two decades of this century, a great number of babies under one year of age wasted away in hospitals and children's institutions and died from unknown causes. In some institutions it was customary to enter the condition of all seriously sick infants as "hopeless" on admission cards.
Among the doctors who were confronted with infant mortality daily was Dr. Fritz Talbot of the Children's Clinic in Dusseldorf. Dr. Talbot had uncommon success in dealing with sick children. For many years, as he made his rounds, he would be followed from ward to ward by groups of interns seeking new ways of handling children's diseases.
One such intern was Dr. Joseph Brennermann, who told this story.
"Many times we would come across a child for whom everything had failed. For some reason the child was hopelessly wasting away. When this would happen, Dr. Talbot would take the child's chart and scrawl some indecipherable prescription. In most of the cases, the magic formula took effect and the child began to prosper. My curiosity was aroused and I wondered if the famous doctor had developed some new type of wonder drug.
"One day, after rounds, I returned to the ward and tried to decipher Dr. Talbot's scrawl. I had no luck, and so I turned to the head nurse and asked her what the prescription was.
"'Old Anna,' she said. Then she pointed to a grandmotherly woman seated in a large rocker with a baby on her lap. The nurse continued: 'Whenever we have a baby for whom everything we could do had failed, we turn the child over to Old Anna. She has more success than all the doctors and nurses in this institution combined.'"
Page Created on: April 20, 1999