Monday, December 07, 2020


Not too bad a day. Successful bath and hair wash. The Evendoon has been advanced to the wrist ribbing of the first sleeve, although that is not finished.


Anne (comment yesterday), thank you for your reference to Dr Frances Kelsey, who saved the US from the scourge of thalidomide. (There is a letter in the Times today, making my point of a couple of days ago that caution saved the US; although Dr Kelsey isn’t given credit.)


Reading the Wikipedia entry about her, and going on to read about thalidomide itself, has agitated me a good deal. Rachel was born at the end of June, 1958. When I first saw a doctor – things were different in those days – and grumbled about morning sickness, he tossed a package of something across the desk and said, You could try these. I took one of them the next day, but then threw the rest away. The package said that they were tranquilizers, and I was a bit offended at the idea that this was “all in the mind” or that tranquillity would make a difference.


I have remembered the episode, as you see, but I always thought it couldn’t have been thalidomide because the dates didn’t fit. In fact, as I discovered from Wikipedia yesterday, they nearly do. Thalidomide was invented in 1957. Late ’57 would have been just the moment for the manufacturers to send the pills around to GP’s in the hopes that they would be prescribed for pregnant women. (In Germany, they were available without prescription.) They were recommended for morning sickness, and also as a tranquilizer.


But then I asked Google the natural-language question, When was thalidomide approved for use in the UK? And the answer was, 1958. By 1958 I was feeling better. The consultation I describe must have been late ’57. So those pills were probably a different tranquilizer-recommended-for-morning-sickness. I can calm down. We’ll never know. It would have been nice to think I got something right, once in my long life, all by myself.


Cam, my doctor-sister confirms what your Irish pharmacist said, that thalidomide is a useful drug in a number of contexts. I think (Wikipedia again) that it is still in use, but kept well away from pregnant women.


  1. It has occurred to me over the years that the whole human race owes those thalidomide survivors a debt so great that it can never be repaid - by their existence they demonstrated to a rather gung-ho generation of doctors that they could not just stuff patients with chemicals that they had not checked out thoroughly. That the same survivors had to battle for compensation was terrible.

    1. Anonymous4:13 PM

      Well said.
      -- Gretchen (aka stashdragon)

  2. I was born May 1960. My mother had taken thalidomide for a few days early on in the pregnancy. I feet were tilted upwards and my parents told me they had to massage my feet night and day. I was never told anything else about those times. Later in life I discovered several things wrong with me internally, such as an extra lumbar vertebrae. Things that make life rather difficult at times and painful all the time. I was taught to be very grateful though. Things could have been so much worse for me and my parents.

  3. Anonymous7:31 PM

    In my early teens, those Life Magazine pictures were etched in my memory forever. And apparently everyone else's as well. Chloe