Welcome back! I've written here before about Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and some interesting insights into the story - well, here's another one (courtesy of David Perdue's Charles Dickens Page) - it answers the question: just what illness DID Tiny Tim suffer from?
Tiny Tim's Ailment
In the December 1992 issue of the American Journal of Diseases of Children Dr. Donald Lewis, an assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at the Medical College of Hampton Roads in Norfolk, Virginia, theorized that Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit's ailing son in Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, suffered from a kidney disease that made his blood too acidic.
Dr. Lewis studied the symptoms of Tim's disease in the original manuscript of the 1843 classic. The disease, distal renal tubular acidosis (type I), was not recognized until the early 20th century but therapies to treat its symptoms were available in Dickens' time.
Dr. Lewis explained that Tim's case, left untreated due to the poverty of the Cratchit household, would produce the symptoms alluded to in the novel.
According to the Ghost of Christmas Present, Tim would die within a year. The fact that he did not die, due to Scrooge's new-found generosity, means that the disease was treatable with proper medical care. Dr. Lewis consulted medical textbooks of the mid 1800's and found that Tim's symptoms would have been treated with alkaline solutions which would counteract the excess acid in his blood and recovery would be rapid.
While other possibilities exist, Dr. Lewis feels that the treatable kidney disorder best fits "the hopeful spirit of the story."
Source - AP Science Writer Malcolm Ritter-1992
For more fascinating looks into other aspects of the tale, see here:
Speaking of Dickens and his most famous holiday story, I've gone on record saying the 1984 George C. Scott version is my favorite adaptation. Each year on Christmas Eve, my family and I make it a point to watch some version of the story. As much as I admire George and company (and I'll probably STILL sneak away and watch it again sometime before the 25th), this year we are watching something different: Simon Callow as Dickens at the Ambassador Theatre in London performing live before an audience (all in Victorian costume) - it gives you a wonderful idea of what it must have been like to see this performed by the author back in the day. We will be seeing it via DVD - it is an extra disc on the boxed set called DICKENS OF LONDON and is well worth a look.
Callow repeated his performance as Dickens in one of my all-time favorite episodes of the modern incarnation of DOCTOR WHO - the episode is called "The Unquiet Dead" and ran during the Christopher Eccleston/Billie Piper era - here's the trailer!
Track this down and watch it, if you haven't seen it already - it may become YOUR new holiday tradition!