When Helen became sick at the age of 19 months, her doctor diagnosed her illness as "acute congestion of the stomach and the brain," or "brain fever" as it was commonly known. However, most doctors today believe that Helen was struck down with either scarlet fever or meningitis. Another possibility is that Helen was infected with a virulent strain of rubella, an epidemic of which was spreading like wildfire in Alabama at the time of Helen's birth. Pediatric medicine wasn't as advanced in those days, and many of the various ailments that afflicted childhood then are easily treatable today. What were deadly illnesses in the late 19th century can now be treated with antibiotics, which weren't available when Helen was a child.