Friday, August 7, 2009

Remembrance of A Childhood Illness: Part Three and Finale: The Recovery

(photo- Wikipedia)

My hospital bed was in the children's ward. Most of the new arrivals after my surgery seemed to have had appendectomies or tonsillectomies, and every time the nurses brought in a still unconscious patient, straight from the operating room and reeking of ether, I became extremely nauseated.

As soon as I was judged to be out of danger and on the road to recovery, Daddy had to go back to his base. But he drove to Albuquerque on Friday, leaving after his full work day, and showed up at my bedside around midnight, bringing a few pieces of peppermint candy and an orange. He peeled the orange with the small pocket knife he always carried, then broke it into sections and fed it to me, piece by piece until I had eaten the whole thing. The nurses, knowing his situation, set up screens around my bed so we would not wake the other children, and let him stay as long as he wished. He would tell me stories and jokes and try to cheer me up. I was very homesick, and I missed my Daddy. He would come again on Saturday, then drive back to his base in Colorado. I was in the hospital about ten days, during which two weekends occurred, and he made the trip twice.

I know that my mother must have visited me, also; unfortunately, those visits are not part of my memories. Sometimes I wonder why I don't remember them.

Insofar as I could determine, the nursing staff of St. Joseph Hospital was comprised entirely of Catholic nuns, dressed in full, shoe-top-touching black habits, with wimples, veils and all. Being a good Southern Baptist child, it was probably the first time in my life that I had seen a nun in full regalia. I’m quite sure the surgical nurses didn’t wear habits, but I don’t recall seeing any of them. All the floor nurses were nuns; and more sweet, gentle and dedicated persons you could not have wished for.

After about five days of bed confinement, one nun was assigned to give me some physical exercise (I was very weak, already having been in bed at home for some time before the surgery) and to teach me to walk without turning my head to the left. I remember her taking her hands and straightening my head as we walked in the halls. She also made me exercise my eye, the controlling muscle of which had been restored to full function several days following the surgery. I was lucky; sometimes the muscle paralysis caused by mastoiditis is permanent.

When I was released from the hospital I returned home, but did not go back to school, which had only a few more weeks left in the year. I remember that my mother was concerned that I would have to repeat the second grade since I had missed so many days of the school year. Her fears were allayed; I was deemed to have learned what second grade students are required to know, and was promoted to the third grade.

I had always been a skinny child, but during my illness, I had lost quite a bit of weight and was about 15 pounds lighter than I should have been at my age. Part of my post-surgical treatment was extra nourishment in the form of malt, considered at the time (and in some parts of the world, still) to be a wonderful dietary supplement. I ate Horlicks Tablets by the fist-full, drank milk with extra cream and flavored with Horlicks powder, and at least once a week (sometimes more often) I was treated to a
"malt” from one of the local dairy’s ice-cream bar (made with extra ice cream, chocolate flavoring and extra malt.) The flavor of malted milk is still one of my favorites, and I try to keep a jar of Horlicks "nourishing food drink" in my cupboard.

Even after all those extra calories, I gained only about five pounds, and remained "string bean-scrawny" until I was in my mid-forties -- then it all caught up with me!

I lay about eating and drinking and basking in the sun, generally being treated like I had been snatched back from the jaws of death (which I had been), but the special treatment came to an abrupt halt when school started in the fall. I’d received a “clean bill of health” report from the doctor (with the caution to keep water out of my ear), my hair had grown back, and it was once again business as usual. I’m sure my mother was happy not to have to coddle me anymore, and even more glad that I had no more ear aches.

As a result of the surgery, my skull has a very flat spot behind my left ear. If that spot is rubbed gently, it sounds “hollow” and a bit drum-like. It’s a wonder that my hearing was not affected. To this day, I can tell no difference between the hearing in my left and right ears. I know that my skull is not as strong at that spot as it is elsewhere on my head, and I have had some concerns during my adult life about the possibility of sustaining a blow to that area. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much of a hit to go straight into my brain. (Can you tell I watch too many Forensic Files and Dr. G., Medical Examiner programs on TV?)

*The End*

Back later with another tale.


Diana said...

Such an interesting story Pat. And remembering how special your daddy was then, well I think a lot of us were daddy's girl's! I do remember Horlicks and also love malt flavor!
I think it's amazing that you can remember all of that from the second grade but I guess just going through something like that would make it easier to remember.
Great Story!

Wanda said...

I so enjoyed your story Pat...It reminded me of an illness my mother had as a child, which left her bed ridden for awhile...

Nothing is worse than a very sick child...a sad memory made better for you, by the memories of your father.

Snap said...

I enjoyed your story, Pat. Glad you are with us! I think it is interesting your remember your dad visiting, but not your mom. I was in the hospital when I was around 6 (this was polio time and I remember the sound of the iron lungs) and I remember my Dad being there, but not my mom. Wonder what that is??? Selective memory? !!!!!!!!!!! Whatever, we both have it! :D :D :D

NitWit1 said...

Isn't it interesting we remember our Dads in special ways. My Dad was always working (civilian) very long hours and seemed a distant figure called for backup support with disciplinary issues.

Mother was the everyday, hands-on figure in our lives, except she never learned to drive.

Yet I remember specific events, like you, that indicate he cared deeply for me and my siblings.

Lovely story. I had Nuns as spiritual support at St. Paul's hospital during my liver resection surgery. Not being Catholic, I nevertheless enjoyed talking with them, and one had a particularly wry sense of humor.

This was during the selection of POPE John's selection (1978ish). It seemed as if all my "soaps" had frequent interruptions to check for the next "puff of smoke" vote result. I told I'be be glad when they made up their minds and she laughed.

I remember Horlick's malt tablets; seems we also sold them in drugstores of my earliest employment. Don't know where I'd get them now.

I love stories that take some time to develop. i've sortta adopted this mantra myself, as opposed to posting something every day.

I have several drafts going right now. Some may never see the light of day.

Anonymous said...

Pat, being a Daddy's girl myself, I can understand perhaps why you remember "Daddy's" visit.
You are indeed blessed. I'm thankful that you regained your health quickly...didn't fall behind in your schooling, and have made quite a miraculous recovery.
Being a 'Suthun Baptist' gurl myself, I can also relate to your surprise at the nun's habits...something we are unaccustomed to seeing on a day to day basis. I'm sure that the care you had there was marvelous....and I am moved by the tender care of your parents. I could almost taste that orange as you were describing your Daddy peeling it for you.
I send you hugs and love. Thank you for a wonderful story...with a happy ending. Take care of you....please.

Patty said...

Glad everything turned out well for you. Sounds like you and your Father had a very loving relationship. I'm sorry to say, I never had that with my Father.

Have a great week-end.

Suldog said...

Wow. Heck of an interesting story, Pat. Thanks for going so in-depth on it! My only hospital experience (overnight stay, I mean) was when I had my tonsils out at age 6 or 7. Thank God, nothing since then!

Peter said...

Wow... Just caught up with parts 2 and 3. Reading that I was giving thanks for antibiotics that we can get these days that usually prevent such infections getting to such a terrible state.

Lovely memories of your father. It is interesting how, in some of the most horrible times, we can sometimes remember the sunshine of someone's care and love. Not nearly as serious as your case, but I remember having a badly decayed tooth pulled out as a child sometime between the age of 5 and 7, and my grandfather nursing me on his knee afterward. He read me the Professor Brainstorm stories as he comforted me (I don't know if you would have had them in your part of the world or not, but lots of fun). Those few moments with my maternal grandfather are some of the few treasured memories that I have of him, as he died when I quite young.

Anonymous said...

Nice to know about this..its very interesting..

Get your company name famous across the world with online marketing

TSannie said...

Loved all three chapters of this one! It's amazing to me you and my parents survived the "medicine" of your youth! Thank God you did!

Hilary said...

The medical practices of the time sure were different. I'm so glad that you not only survived them, but didn't lose your hearing or sight in the process.

I'm in catch up mode. I probably won't comment on most posts over the next little while, but rest assured that I'm reading them all.

Putz said...

am over from rymees wit bob to visit and your experiences with malt is fascinating....gaining weight, i like to mix extra cream in my milk when i mix in chocoate and do that in lieu of having ice cream at the store which was expensive...probably the same result from gaining weight point of view