MEET OUR VETERANS: Anne Cobb (Grand Saline, Tx)
“I was scared to death to go to the Hospital where they had Leprosy.” Anne Cobb
Anne Marie Bailey was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma on September 15, 1925. She is 93 years old. “I had two brothers and both were in the service and served overseas. My mother was a school teacher for years and years. She taught grades K-12 in a one-room schoolhouse. My dad died of tuberculosis at an early age. My mother taught me to always be honest and to do your best at anything you started.”
“I took piano lessons, but I wasn’t good at it,” laughed Anne. “My mother wanted me to play the piano, I tried it, but I just wasn’t’ very good. I did a showing at the 4-H club and I was pretty good at that. I made a lot of my own clothes. I remember going thru the Depression and you fought for every penny you got. I was always looking for something to do to get paid. My mother got a pension because my daddy was a veteran and that really helped us to get thru the hard times. I did graduate from High School.”
Volunteered for the Navy
“I don’t know why I volunteered for the Navy but it just seemed like something I needed to do. My father had been thru the service and I needed to do my part, I guess. I was the youngest of all us kids,” said Anne.
“I was about 20 or 21 years old when I went into the service and that would have been around 1945 or 1946. Nursing has always something I had been good at, or at least people told me I was good at. That helped to build my ego up really quick. I never did work at Walter Reed Hospital, but I wished I had. A lot of people have asked me that. I never had that privilege.”
Anne doesn’t remember attending Boot Camp but remembers being sent to begin her nursing career at Bremerton NAS Hospital based in the state of Washington. “I remember a lot of the wounded veterans came there. I met this group of veterans and saw this guy sitting there and I said he’s mine, and they all laughed at me. His name was Jack. I eventually married him but I didn’t keep him. We were married for about five years,” Anne said looking back.
“I have two daughters named Sally and Buddie and one son named Bradford.” Her daughter Sally met me at the Azalea Trails Nursing Home and Rehab in Grand Saline on my second visit with Anne. Activities Director, Angelia Wilson was a tremendous help in setting up the interview with Anne Cobb.
“I went into the service and had to take a test to be a nurse. I was in the Navy for four years and became Lieutenant. Most of my military career was spent in the states,” said Anne.
Sally Swisatr, Anne’s daughter said, “You would have already been an officer when you went into the service as a nurse. She probably went in as a LTJG and was a full Lieutenant when she was discharged. She went into the Navy and then became an RN.”
“I remember when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, how scared I was,” remarked Anne. “I had two brothers and I knew that would have to go into the military and maybe off to war. Robert and Warren were my two brothers’ names, I called them Bob and Bud,” said Anne.
“One of the things I liked about being a nurse was the praise the veterans gave me. They kinda held you on a pedestal. It was a little scary working with the veterans coming back from the war. When they told me some of the tales they went thru, I said Oh My Gosh. There were some I liked better than others. There were many times where I thought twice about becoming a nurse. I think all the nurses did. When you see someone, who is so disabled or sick, and you have been a part of them getting up and going again…. that is a good feeling. Sometimes they will praise you and sometimes they will just walk away. I wondered sometimes why I worked so hard, but I knew there were a lot that I helped and that was a lot of satisfaction. My brothers were very helpful to me. I knew I could always turn to them and they would give me good advice.”
Working at Carville Leprosy Hospital
Early in her career Anne remembers being assigned to a Leprosy Hospital in Carville, Louisiana. There were only two Leprosy or “Hansen Disease,” Hospitals in the country in the 1940’s. One located just South of Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she was assigned.
“I was scared to death to go to the Hospital where they had Leprosy,” said Anne. “There were bad tales told over the years about that disease. A lot of people thought Leprosy was contagious. At the time I did not know the disease was not contagious.
The patients there were grand. When they found out a young nurse was coming they were excited,” laughs Anne. “I have no bad memories about working at Carville. I really liked working there. They had both young and older patients. I don’t remember how many I was taking care of, that was too long ago. It was a lot of hard work taking care of people with Leprosy. The hardest part was convincing them they could get up and lead a normal life, that was the hardest part of it all,” reminisced Anne.
There was a drug named PUTOME that was invented by Doctor Guy H. Faget. In 1941 the drug came to be known as “The Miracle at Carville.”
Dr. Faget (1891-1947) was an American health officer known for his role as director of the Carville leprosarium and his pioneering use of sulfonamides in leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) treatment.
Faget graduated from Tulane University Medical School, New Orleans, in 1914. He became resident physician in the Presbyterian Hospital. He gained experience in tropical diseases while working as a physician and health officer in British Honduras. He worked for many years in military hospitals as an officer of the US Public Health Service.
Faget conducted experiments with sulfonamides in the treatment of malaria, but found that this treatment was ineffective. However, he was aware of other research showing the effectiveness of sulfonamides (especially promin) to treat tuberculosis.
This led him to investigate whether the same treatment could be used in leprosy.
In 1940, Faget became medical officer in charge of the Carville National Leprosarium, Louisiana, United States. Prior to his arrival, the patients there had been receiving treatment with chaulmoogra oil. The effectiveness of this treatment had been questioned by leprosy experts at the time, and it caused unpleasant side effects. Soon after Faget’s arrival at Carville, he began experiments with sulfone drugs in the treatment of leprosy, conducting tests with volunteer patients. He started using sulphanilamide with nine volunteers in 1940, and he found that after six months, there was a rapid improvement in the ulcers from which these patients suffered.
After hearing of Edmund Vincent Cowdry’s success with promin in rats, Faget began treating Carville patients with promin in March, 1941. He reported in 1943 that “Promin is the sulfonamide drug which thus far seems to possess to the greatest extent some chemotherapeutic properties against leprosy.” He continued studies with other sulfones, including diasone and promizole, and these further trials definitively demonstrated the drugs’ efficacy. These drugs are still used as part of multi-drug therapy for leprosy treatment today. Carville officially discontinued the use of chaulmoogra oil in 1947. (International Leprosy Association)
Today, the Carville Leprosy Hospital is a museum located along the banks of the Mississippi.
“She loved going to Carville because there was not a whole lot of people who wanted to go there,” said Sally. “I remember her saying the patients were brought there maybe from another country, they were not U.S. citizens,”
“I remember that drug, but I am not sure if I gave them Putome or not,” said Anne trying her best to remember details from over 70 years ago.
“My older brother Bob had been in New Orleans, and I remember him telling me she won’t enjoy New Orleans as much as I did because I probably wouldn’t go out and meet people like he did. My brother was very outgoing and he met a lot of people there. He was gone before I got there.” Did you make it down to the French Quarter, I asked? “Oh Yeah,” said Anne. Tell me about your time in the French Quarter Anne, I pursued the line of questioning. “Well, I don’t remember,” said Anne and her family got a laugh out of that story. “I was a single girl then,” she said. “I lived high on the hog,” and we leave the rest to our reader’s imagination. Anne sure had a big smile on her face. Her daughter, Sally was laughing hearing her mother’s stories for the first time.
“I remember leaving with no regrets, “she finally said with a wide grin. Sally looked at her mom, “You never talked too much about your Navy life, probably because it was too raunchy,” and Sally and her mom looked at each other and laughed loud enough to be heard at the nurse’s station.
“All her little secrets are coming out now,” laughed Sally.
According to her granddaughter, DeeAnna Saunders, Anne was stationed in Sand Diego and was released from the Navy as a lieutenant in 1950. “I remember mom telling me why she left the Navy,” said Sally. “Mom was an officer and my dad was not. At that time an officer could not fraternize with someone who was not an officer, especially be romantically involved. They both got out so they could get married.”
Grandma was always there for us
DeeAnna said her fondest memories of her grandmother was watching soap operas with her while staying at home from school. “She had several soap operas and Bob Parker’s, the Price is Right, was another show she watched. General Hospital was probably her favorite.”
Cody Swisatr, her grandson added, “The Price is Right was one of her favorites. I still watch that show,” he laughs. “She was always making cookies. And baking stuff all the time.”
“I liked the military,” Anne said proudly. “When they said something had to be done, well then it had to be done. I liked the discipline I got in the military. When I got out of the Navy I continued my nursing career. I moved to Texas and worked in Grand Saline Hospital.”
“She was an emergency room nurse and also a surgery nurse when she worked in Bartlesville Hospital,” said Sally. “She also worked with Dr. John Turner when she came to Grand Saline Hospital. That is why she is at the Nursing Home in Grand Saline because Dr. Turner was here and we knew he would take good care of her.”
“My mother always told me that if you come across an accident, don’t stop because you might get sued, but she always stopped and helped,” said her daughter Sally. “I remember we lived on a farm in Oklahoma and this horse came on our property and he was all torn up and mother bandaged the horse up and the neighbor came over and said his horse returned and it was the weirdest thing to see his horse all bandaged up. She was just like that.”
Living to be 93
What is the secret to long life and living to be 93? “Well I think just live an honest life. My mother was a good teacher and I just kind of followed in her footsteps.
I am very content about how my life has gone. I have always thought that someday I would like to get all my family back together again and we could talk old times again. I look back over my life and I was one of the lucky ones.”
Anne Cobb, we and your many patients are the lucky ones. Thank you so much for sitting down and giving your best effort to remember details from so long ago.
God Bless our Veterans and God Bless America
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