Thirteen-year-old Evvy Hoffmeiseter is dropped of at Loon Lake Sanitorium in hopes of curing her tuberculosis. It’s 1940 and successful treatment with antibiotics was still a few years away. Rest and exposure to cold air are the only prescriptions. Trapped in her room, Evvy isn’t supposed to talk or even get out of bed.
Regardless of the dire situation Evvy is able to make friends with her roommates. Sarah is shy. Pearl is glamorous. And Dena is tough. Together they fight loneliness and the ever-present shadow of death.
Breathing Room is a sneak peek into a lesser-known part of history. Hundreds of thousands of people died in TB sanitariums in the early part of the twentieth century. For hundreds of years before, it was a death sentence. Called the Great White Plague, tuberculosis has been found as early as ancient Egypt. With recent resurgences of this treatable illness, it is imperative we look to the past and remember those that lost their lives. Marsha Hayles gives us a look at the life of one of these patients. Evvy’s quiet dignity and strength are remarkable. We cry with her losses and cheer for her survival.