Clara’s Rib a story of hope and inspiration


“Dr. Carmichael put me up for 10 minutes of daily exercise. I haven’t been on exercise since 1942, eight years ago, so it will certainly be strange walking down the street again. I am very happy. This has been a great day.”

Clara Raina was 24 years old when she wrote those words on October 26, 1950, in her detailed and meticulous diaries. She entered the Royal Ottawa Sanatorium in 1939, diagnosed with tuberculosis. In 1952 she was able to leave the hospital.

Clara would see seven members of her immediate family enter the same sanatorium. She would see her father, and her brothers John and Billy, die of the deadly contagion. And she, herself, would undergo several therapies used for treating TB sixty years ago. One such treatment cost her 11 of her 24 ribs. 

Clara had “her own yardstick for measuring happiness,” said her sister, Anne Raina, author of the book, Clara’s Rib, written from the diaries and records and papers the young girl kept during her years of medical confinement. 

“Our mother taught us that “every single day has something beautiful in it,” Raina told the Leader. “Some days you have to look harder to find it, but always look. Clara’s story is one of hope, humour and strong faith.”

Anne Raina is presenting  book talks based on Clara’s Rib, on Monday, October 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Lost Villages, and on Thursday, October 18, at 2 p.m., at the Morrisburg Public Library.

Clara’s diaries paint a picture of the nature of the disease of tuberculosis, its treatments (“Some seem barbaric by our modern standards,” Anne Raina said, “but doctors were not trying to be cruel. They were doing their best with the knowledge available at the time.”), and TB’s affects on families and on the sufferers themselves. 

“Clara persevered,” Anne Raina said. “She found humour and hope. Readers of all ages, will, I think, be drawn into Clara’s life.” 

Anne Raina was entrusted by her sister with the diaries and a manuscript Clara had written just before her death. “I always felt that this was a story that needed to be told,” the author explained. 

Clara’s Rib, as Peter Jessamine, MD, son of the former superintendant of the Royal Ottawa Sanatorium put it, concerns a woman whose life “is truly a miracle and an inspiration.”  

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