Pop Culture Icon
Display No. 149
Nightingale experienced chronic illness for most of her life. Whilst working at Scutari she contracted a bacterial infection called brucellosis. Symptoms include fever, nausea, loss of appetite, sweating, headaches, extreme tiredness, and joint pain. Antibiotic treatments were not invented until 1928 and so the infection became chronic, resulting in recurring episodes of illness for the rest of her life.
The symptoms which Nightingale experienced are similar to ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). The effects of ME are devastating and leave 25% of patients housebound or bed-bound, and there is currently no cure. ME is poorly understood and people with ME can be accused of “faking” illness. In 2017, Director Jennifer Brea released a documentary, Unrest, which she created after she developed ME. In this interview she talks about her experiences of chronic illness and creating the film.