‘Penicillin Girl’ Genean Hixon dies at 82

A woman whose breakthrough treatment with penicillin during World War II led to modern medical practices died March 1, two days before her 83rd birthday.

Genean Hixon, better known in the 1940s as the “Penicillin Girl,” was at the age of 12 one of the first American civilians to be treated with what The Denver Post called the “mysterious miracle drug” in a series of articles on her progress.

Hixon, born Genean Smith on March 3, 1931, was hospitalized on July 24, 1943, with severe osteomyelitis — a bone disease that at the time was seemingly incurable and potentially fatal.

Hixon’s daughter, Connie Hixon Davis, said her mother spent more than four years in hospital beds in her teens, but was saved early on by the penicillin treatment.

“Interestingly, she developed an allergy to penicillin and couldn’t take it in her later years,” Connie said.

Hixon was diagnosed with liver cancer in December, which led to her death. She is survived by a large family including her husband Donald, 87, a brother Gerald Smith, 79, four children, 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Throughout her life, Genean remained as avid a reader and seamstress as when she was cooped up in Denver General hospital as a young woman.

She received fan mail and, once, a bouquet of roses from an unknown soldier during the penicillin treatment, which drew hopeful eyes from around the globe.

“It is the first time such a quantity of the new drug, produced under extreme difficulties as a form of mold, has been released for a case of this nature in this region,” The Denver Post wrote on Oct. 18, 1943. “Denver General hospital has thus become the center of a medical experiment of worldwide interest.”

Connie said her mother’s father, Claude Smith, managed with the help of a doctor interested in Genean’s case to persuade the National Research Council to share the precious, new drug with his ailing daughter. The U.S. reserved penicillin primarily for military use until after the war.

Bennie Lindeque, a professor of orthopedics at the University of Colorado Denver, said the approach used in Hixon’s treatment is standard practice for curing osteomyelitis today.

Source: Chicoer Breaking news