Without modern medicine, what might you have died from?

Reading this thread got me thinking about a conversation my friends and I had once. We tried to figure out how many of us and our nearest and dearest would have survived to their current age without modern medicine. The results ended up being sobering. And we didn’t even get into the percentages of how many of us would have likely gotten and died from once endemic diseases that are now vaccinated or sterilized virtually out of existence in developed nations.

Both of my best friends would likely be dead, one of severe lung infections and the other of a ruptured appendix as children. My sister would have died at 6 months of pneumonia with virtual certainty (she needed a vent). My mom would have died at my sister’s birth of a hemorrhage. Assuming I didn’t die from the repeated strep infections as a child, and I survived the 105 degree fever brought down by the lovely people in my local ER, I’d have died of renal failure from the massive UTI-turned kidney infection at 19 that required some of the scariest medications I’d ever been on.

Sitting around the table that night, only one of us would have lived to our mid-twenties, though a cursory glance at the known facts of our parents histories led us to believe only half of us would have been born at all. For this discussion, leave that out, though. Assume your parents survived enough to at least get pregnant with you.

What would you have died of? Or have you been completely healthy?

I probably wouldn’t have survived birth (got stuck on mom’s pubic bone; forceps delivery).

Had I survived birth, I would certainly have gone deaf by age 5. (abnormally large tonsils and adenoids, had surgery and tubes to drain fluid).

I might have sustained brain damage during the high fevers I had every time I cut a molar.

After age 10, I’ve been relatively healthy and haven’t had any accidents or anything to put me in the hospital (knock wood). So I’d be a brain damaged deaf adult, assuming I didn’t die being born.

Lung infections - probably wouldn’t have made it to 10. After that, I don’t think I’ve had anything life threatening, although a bunch of things I take for granted may have proved deadly. Without modern medicine there’d still be smallpox & polio to worry about, maybe I would have got tetanus if I wasn’t vaccinated (if I survived my childhood).

I think I would have been OK from 1958 until the mid-'80s, when I got a nick on my finger that became infected and developed into blood poisoning. When I arrived at the hospital to ask what the purple line going up my arm and around the bend to my chest was, the receptionist leapt out of her chair to get a doctor right away. Doctors aren’t supposed to show any emotion, right? Well, when he saw my situation, this one’s eyes got big like saucers, and he actually said, “Holy shit!” and then injected me with a massive dose of antibiotics. At that point, I was told I would have been good for about 20 more minutes. If not for penicillin, I’d not be here now.

Birth probably would have killed either me or my mom. I was a very late birth and a very large baby. My mom ended up have a C-section because they were afraid I was too large to fit through her birth canal.

I’d have died from a kidney infection, but if I survived that, childbirth would have done me in. Yay for c-sections!

Of course, I’m so near-sighted that it’s quite possible I wouldn’t have gotten married at all, in which case I would have lived, but not been able to do anything much. Sounds like fun.

I have systemic lupus, so I probably wouldn’t have survived that. If I had, I may have been like my great grandmother (who may have had lupus, but was not diagnosed because it was so long ago). She was an invalid because of severe arthritis and other problems, starting when she was in her mid 20s (after giving birth). I also had scarlet fever as a kid and had a couple bad births. Although I probably would have survived both, my first son probably wouldn’t have.

Probably died at birth. If not, then probably from pneumonia before I was 10.

If I lived to adulthood, and reproduced, maybe only one of my children would have lived, I am RH-, they are all positive.

Assuming I survived my difficult birth, the staph infections that the entire maternity ward had would have probably done me in. If I’d lived through that, then I’d probably still be alive and kicking.

I would have died of pneumonia at age 4 or, if by some miracle I survived that, of appendicitis at age 13.

Other than being functionally blind from nearsightedness, I would have been okay. I’ve never been very sick. Although having my wisdom teeth pulled wouldn’t have been fun.

With both of my pregnancies, I failed to go into labor after my water broke. No big deal now, but I’m not sure how that would have turned out back in the good old days.

My husband would have died at age 5 from appendicitis.

I had the dread Scarlet Fever when I was a very small child. I suppose that might have done me in, if 19th Century literature can be trusted as far as a contemporary prognosis is concerned.

I probably wouldn’t have made it through birth - both my mother and I were in distress and I ended up coming into the world as an emergency C-section.

I never got any of those bad childhood diseases like mumps or measles, but then, I was vaccinated against them. So maybe I was saved there. I’ve had several ear infections and respiratory infections, and I guess that without antibiotics they could have gotten out of hand, but they didn’t seem seroius enough to kill me. Maybe I’d have lost some hearing, because a couple of the ear infections were enough to perforate my eardrum.

Does modern medicine include glasses? Because if these were still hunting-gathering times, my eyesight sucks enough that I’d be pretty useless at either of those options, and my tribe would have kicked my ass to the curb.

I’d likely have been dead of bronchitus as a child; I spent a week or so in an oxygen tent getting penicillin. As a side note, according to my mother while my brother would be alive he’d likely be mentally retarded due to my mother having had Rh negative blood and both me and my brother having Rh positive. They gave her some sort of drug to suppress the immune reaction that comes with secondborn Rh positive babies in that scenario.

Appendicitis would have gotten me when I was 12–mine had already burst by the time I got to the hospital.

Breach birth and forceps delivery (I don’t know how pre-industrial delivery methods would have handled that). Nail through my left hand when I was ten; it became badly infected, and very likely would have been fatal without modern antibiotics (even if I hadn’t gotten tetanus). Ruptured appendix when I was 37. I’d also be permanently crippled if my severed quadriceps tendon hadn’t been repaired.

So, all in all, I’m a fan of modern medicine.

I wouldn’t even be here because my mom would have died delivering my older sister (at the last minute the baby turned laterally, so she was sideways in the uterus and wasn’t budging).

Without glasses I would have been pretty nonfunctional.
My nephew is an Infectious disease/Pediatric Medicine doc who travels all over the world seeing sick kids, who, in effect, don’t have “modern” medicine. He’s watched kids die from ear infections and UTIs and have permanent heart damage from Strep infections (untreated which lead to Scarlet fever and can cause kidney and other problems).
I’ve had ear infections, UTIs and strep as a child. Not to mention dental cavities, which could go systemic if untreated.

I (like multiple others on this thread) would have died from a kidney infection at age 19. As it was, the oral antibiotics the student health center gave me didn’t work, and I had to be rushed to the emergency room and given an IV.

I might not have made it that far because I had jaundice as a baby–I have no idea how bad this was, though. I dislocated one arm as a child, but I don’t think this would have killed me. I’ve had some ear infections that I suppose could have left me deaf in at least one ear. Other than these things, I’ve been pretty lucky; no broken bones, I could survive without my glasses, no life-threatening allergies.

Assuming a couple of broken bones would have healed, guess I’m good to go. Never any serious illness.

Oddly enough, nothing (unless the untreated depression drove me to suicide). But I would be worthless without glasses. I can’t see anything more than about eight inches from my nose without them.

And my husband would have been dead at the age of 12. He has an autoimmune condition called IGA nephropathy. Basically, his body decided that his kidneys were foreign objects and tried to reject them.