The Hospital

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Story about early childhood illness requiring hospital stay and his love trains that enabled him to make that experience better.

Submitted: May 12, 2018

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Submitted: May 12, 2018

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I was four and a half years old when I was taken to the hospital; although I do remember lying on the couch in the living room in our old house.
I had a stuffed bear that I clung to constantly. One day Mom decided it was time to wash the germs out of it, and being the good person she was, made the greatest effort to return my companion to me. There was only one problem with that plan. She must have thrown it in the dryer, although, I didn’t think we had a dryer until years later. The bear came out clean and dry but stiff and brown. The dryer had turned Mr. Bear from golden to a shade of brown. Of course it was the same stuffed bear but it wasn’t perfect anymore. On top of me being ill now this former companion just felt wrong when I looked at it, and touched it, it felt like a hand full of dry leaves. I protested to mom but it was too late, and she was only trying to be helpful.
I was on the eighth floor of Mercy Hospital which was staffed by regular nurses, as well as, the Sisters of Mercy. This was the children’s floor, and all around me were sick kids. I was in a private room, and with a diagnosed case of tuberculosis I was in virtual lock down.
From my window I could look out, and watch the goings on of the B & O railroad yard across the Conemaugh River. All day long diesel switchers would move cars to and fro in the yard. Sometime you could hear sounds but the windows were shut, and most probably locked to keep curious children from unlocking them and falling out.
I absolutely loved trains. This was the best possible medicine for me. One day I decided to get a better look, and so I climbed up on to the window ledge.
“What a view,” I thought, and the better to see the action. Sometime in the afternoon a nurse found me, and returned me to my bed which had railings on both side. I wonder how I managed to climb up and over.
That evening Mom and Dad came to visit me, and I proudly told Dad how I climbed out of the bed and up onto the windowsill. Now Dad was a man of action who decided quickly how to resolve any problem. He immediately left the room, and went looking for the Sister in charge to lodge his complaint.
As he told it “I don’t want to get this nurse fired but I also didn’t want my boy, (as he often referred to me), falling out of the window.”
From that day forward, there would be no further jailbreaks as a nurse would check on me often.
During this period of time I would get an injection of penicillin in the buttocks each afternoon. I felt like a pin cushion, and my bottom was rapidly turn black and blue. One day I decided enough was enough and I was going to refuse. When the nurse came in for the afternoon treat I firmly declined in my best four year old voice. Despite all of the nurse’s tricks I still refused, and started running from corner to corner. The nurse called for help, and soon other nurses join in as I continued to run from corner to corner. By the time my protest was over three nurses held me down as the fourth stabbed my little butt, and the injection was over for the day. I cried bitterly over the failure, and the fact that again another bruise was added to my posterior.
I had several operations during my ninety days at Mercy. I can remember the smell of ether, and how it would make me so sick in recovery. The last smell as I went under in the operating room, and the first as I came out of the recovery room. They had removed my lymph nodes I was told years later, although I never knew why exactly. I believe I had three or four operations.
My mother was a devout Catholic, and so she prayed to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. This would not be the last time she would pray for me, and my hopeless causes. My condition was not improving, and the plan was to move me to Mt Alto near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Mt Alto was a repository for people with tuberculosis and other incurable diseases which today would be referred to as a hospice.
The weekend before I was to go to Mt Alto we took a trip to the Horseshoe Curve, the Mecca of train watching. There were four tracks in all, with two going east and two going west. Most train traffic moving across the state of Pennsylvania had to round the ‘curve. It was wonderful, and whether it was the mountain air of Altoona or the help of St. Jude. I never set a foot in Mt. Alto. In time I recovered from Tuberculosis but never recovered from the sounds and sights of trains. All these years later I still am possessed by them, and will stop whatever activity I am doing just to watch them when I hear the sounds of a passing train.

 


© Copyright 2018 John Shore. All rights reserved.

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