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Sabrina Rue, Rock Quarry Middle School, Tuscaloosa, AL

The Invention that Saved my Sister

I remember being pretty little—only about five years old—when my baby sister Audrey got very sick. She was always a playful baby, with sparkly blue eyes and a sweet giggle. But now she wasn’t giggling or making much of any sound at all, except a weak cry, and her eyes looked heavy and dull. I remember my mother rocking her and singing to her for a long time. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew my sister was sick and that my mom seemed worried.

We took Audrey to the doctor and they gave her lots of medicine. They said if the medicine didn’t work, they’d have to put her in the hospital. I remember seeing my mom squirt a thick, white, grainy liquid medicine into the baby’s mouth. Mama said it was medicine that would help Audrey get better. She said that we were very blessed to live in the time we did because in her grandma’s time, this good medicine didn’t exist.

I know now that the medicine my mother gave my sister was an antibiotic. Antibiotics were developed in the World War II era, and they may be the greatest invention of that time period because they have saved countless people’s lives. When I asked my mom about antibiotics after we studied World War II inventions at school, she told me that without antibiotics, Audrey probably would have died as a baby because she has asthma, so when she gets sick with a respiratory infection, she gets very sick very quickly. I realized that when Mama had said we were blessed to live in our time period, she was talking about the medical invention that saved Audrey’s life.

My great grandmother had two young children who died before World War II. My mom said children dying young used to be a lot more common than it is now because they didn’t have antibiotics back then. I learned from my research that penicillin was the first antibiotic and that it was discovered sort of by accident. It’s amazing to me that something so revolutionary could come about by chance. It is scary to think how different the world would be and how many people would die from simple infections if this “accident” hadn’t occurred.

My sister and I argue a lot and she gets on my nerves more than anyone else, but I can’t imagine my life without her. I am thankful that penicillin was developed and that it led to other antibiotics that are life-saving medicines. Illnesses that used to be a death sentence don’t even require hospitalization most of the time thanks to these miracle drugs.

World War II had many horrors and many deaths, but the development of antibiotics, in my opinion, is the most important invention that came from that tumultuous time in our history.


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Student Travel – WWII Educational Tours
High school and college students, learn the leadership principles that helped win WWII on a trip to France or during a weeklong residential program in New Orleans. College credit is available, and space is limited.

See You Next Year! HS Yearbooks from WWII
Collected from across the United States, the words and pictures of these yearbooks present a new opportunity to experience the many challenges, setbacks and triumphs of the war through the eyes of America’s youth.

The Victory Gardens of WWII
Visit the Classroom Victory Garden Project website to learn about food production during WWII, find lesson plans and activities for elementary students, get tips for starting your own garden and try out simple Victory Garden recipes!

The Science and Technology of WWII
Visit our new interactive website to learn about wartime technical and scientific advances that forever changed our world. Incorporates STEM principles to use in the classroom.

Kids Corner: Fun and Games!
Make your own propaganda posters, test your memory, solve puzzles and more! Learn about World War II and have fun at the same time.

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