Russell Chesney Publishes Article to Show Cause of Tiny Tim’s Illness

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Russell Chesney, MD, professor of Pediatrics and Physiology at the UTHSC and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, believes he knows what was ailing Tiny Tim, the iconic character from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Russell Chesney, MD, professor of Pediatrics and Physiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, believes he knows what was ailing Tiny Tim, the iconic character from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Based on detailed descriptions of both the boy’s symptoms and the living conditions of 18th century London, Dr. Chesney hypothesizes that Tiny Tim suffered from a combination of rickets and tuberculosis (TB). His findings were published in the March 5 edition of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Dr. Chesney noted during the time the novel was written, 60 percent of children in London had rickets and nearly 50 percent displayed signs of TB. He says this is due to crowded living conditions, poor diets, filth and low exposure to sunlight. The coal-burning city of London in addition to particles from an Indonesian volcanic eruption contributed to blackened skies for many years.

Both rickets and TB can be improved and indeed cured through increased exposure to Vitamin D, which can be obtained through exposure to sunlight and a balanced diet.

As the Ghost of Christmas Present showed Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim’s condition would be fatal without a different course for the boy. According to Dr. Chesney’s research, Scrooge could have ensured an improved diet, sunshine exposure and cod liver oil (a common supplement of the day high in Vitamin D) through improved generosity to Bob Cratchit and his family.

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., treats more than 200,000 children each year in a 255-bed hospital that features state-of-the-art technology and family-friendly resources. Nationally recognized, Le Bonheur is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a Best Children’s Hospital. Serving as a primary teaching affiliate for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the hospital trains more pediatricians than any other hospital in the state.