December 22, 2007

tiny tim I know I’ve never thought about it, all the many times I’ve seen “A Christmas Carol” on TV….

(Er, hold that thought for a second. As far as I’m concerned, Alistair Sim’s version (it was actually called “Scrooge”) will ALWAYS be the absolute all-time best, but George C. Scott’s version wasn’t bad at all, and neither was this one starring Henry Winkler.)

But I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah…did you ever stop to think what, exactly, was Tiny Tim suffering from? Here’s what we know from the evidence we have: Bob Cratchit’s youngest son walks round on a crutch and is kind of a weak, sickly sort of gurkin. His brothers and sisters all seem to be OK. The ghosts of Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come tell Ebeneezer the prospects for T-squared’s survival are not so great, and that, if left untreated he ain’t gonna be around by the next Ho-Ho-Ho. After Scrooge’s Christmas morning visitations and revelation, he begins to take better care of Bob and his family, and by the end of the movie, The Timster is all better, jumping around and as spry a young leopard.

So what was Tiny Tim’s suffering from? I’d never stopped to think about it, but, as it turns out, some researchers have. With a tip of the hat to NRO’s Corner Blog, here’s an interesting link to this Live Science article:

Online detectives have been debating this question for years, using clues taken from the book to form possible diagnoses.

Internist Dr. Daniel J. Glunk, president-elect of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, has examined all of these theories and determined that many seem to have merit in identifying Tiny Tim’s ailment.

…One theory floating around the Web is that Tiny Tim suffered from renal tubular acidosis (RTA), a kidney disease that makes blood too acidic. According to Glunk, RTA occurs when the kidneys fail to excrete acids into the urine, cause the acid to build up in the blood. The result can be growth retardation, kidney stones, bone disease and progressive renal failure—symptoms that seem to match some of Tiny Tim’s.

“Tiny Tim is small, has malformed limbs and periods of weakness,” Glunk said. “These all can be the result of RTA. Plus the fact that Tiny Tim’s condition is fatal if left untreated, but reversible if proper medicine is used, helps to guide medical sleuths to RTA.”

While 19th century doctors wouldn’t have been able to test for the disease or even put a name on it, they did know the symptoms and how to treat them, Glunk said. Frequent doses of alkaline substances would have been given to such patients, which would neutralize the acid in the blood.

I’m no doctor, and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn last night, but this sounds like a possible answer. Of course, you can never get the medical or scientific communities to agree on anything, let alone something as important as this, so there’s this possible diagnosis as well:

…Other Internet sleuths have suggested that Tiny Tim suffered vitamin D deficiency, commonly called rickets.

Rickets was a widespread problem in cities with heavy smog that blocked sunlight, a major source of vitamin D.

Without vitamin D, the body can’t absorb calcium and has difficulty building and maintaining strong bones. Some signs of rickets include soft bones, muscular weakness, osteoporosis, and joint pain.

“Knowing London’s environmental conditions at that time and knowing Tiny Tim used a crutch, it’s reasonable to consider this disease, despite the fact that vitamin D wasn’t discovered until the early 20th century,” Glunk said. “At the time, they could have unknowingly treated this condition through better foods that Scrooge helped to buy.”

I’m not sure I buy this particular diagnosis, because if some dietary deficiency was causing Tiny Tim’s health issues, wouldn’t the rest of his family also exhibit similar symptoms? After all, it wasn’t as if his sisters and brothers – especially that snarky “master Peter” – could sneak around the corner to a McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts; they had to eat what the rest of the family ate, right?

So put me down as favoring the renal tubular acidosis theory, and that Scrooge and his money had enough connections in London so that Tiny Tim could now afford a decent doctor’s care and receive the proper treatment, thus setting him right after a time.

Of course, if London had Hillary Clinton’s universal health care, nothing like this ever would have been allowed to happen, right?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:20 | Comments Off on A Christmas Mystery Solved?
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