I didn’t flunk fourth grade, I just missed it, the whole year!
During summer break I woke up one morning with a fever and a very stiff and swollen arm. The pain was piercing; the slightest touch caused me to flinch. My mom did what most moms would do. She tended to me, gave me some aspirin and kept an eye on me. Money was scarce and most families did their own ‘doctoring’ as much as possible. By the third day I wasn’t showing any signs of getting better so mother took me to the doctor. The news wasn’t good. I had Rheumatic Fever.
I spent a week in the hospital and an entire year in bed. I was not allowed to be up for any reason whatsoever. That meant mother had to bathe me in bed, wash my hair in bed, feed me in bed and… I had to use a bed pan for an entire year. I was also on penicillin for a year. The reason for complete bed rest was to hopefully prevent damage to my heart. I couldn’t even get up when mom changed the bedding. I had to roll to one side of the bed while she worked on the opposite side. Trips to the doctor meant someone had to carry me to the car and into the doctor’s office. Thanks to the excellent care from my mom, I did not sustain any heart damage at all.
After I began to feel better, it became harder and harder for me to understand why I couldn’t get up. I didn’t feel sick anymore and I wanted to go outside with my brothers and friends and play. Mother made sure I had plenty of books to read, color books and crayons and my baby doll. She even moved my bed near the window so I could look outside. I had plenty of pity parties when I saw my friends out playing and riding their bikes. (I was supposed to get my first bike that year)
I had to have a tutor too. I don’t remember her name; I do remember what she looked like. She was a very small woman, probably in her mid-thirties. She was nicely tanned, had short dark hair and her breath smelled like peppermint. I always looked forward to seeing her. She was funny and made me laugh a lot.
One of the ladies from church made me a heart shaped box out of recycled all occasion cards which she had crocheted together. Someone, perhaps the same lady, had all of the kids from church sign cards and she put them inside the box and brought it to me when she came for a visit. I received many, many cards and letters during the course of my illness and I kept each one of them. I also kept the box and those cards and letters are still inside of it today, some 51 years later. I’ll do the math for you….I was nine when I became ill. (See pictures at top of post. The box has lost some of its original shape over the years.)
That was quite a year for me, and I’m sure for my family as well, especially my mom. As I think back, I realize she made many sacrifices for me that year as she basically had to put much of her life on hold for me. Thank you mom!!
I survived the year, all the meds I had to take, all the “not under the arm and not under the tongue” temperature taking. (I’m trying to keep it toned down for some of my more sensitive readers) 🙂 I especially did not like that part! I never did get my bicycle either. Finally got one after I was married, just wasn’t as much fun as I had remembered.
As you can imagine, being confined to bed for a year caused some weight gain. I have been in the battle of the bulge since then. I basically had to learn to walk again, I hadn’t forgotten how; my muscles had grown too weak to hold me up. It didn’t take too long to strengthen them as I was very excited to get out of that bed.
The following information is from the Mayo Clinic website: Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that can develop as a complication of untreated or poorly treated strep throat. Strep throat is caused by infection with group ‘A’ streptococcus bacteria. Rheumatic fever is most common in 5- to 15-year-old children, though it can develop in younger children and adults. Recurring episodes of rheumatic fever most often affect people when they are about 25 to 35 years of age.
Although it’s relatively rare in United States and other developed countries, rheumatic fever remains common in many developing nations. Rheumatic fever can cause permanent damage to the heart that may result in serious harm to the heart valves and heart failure. Treatments can reduce tissue damage from inflammation, lessen pain and other symptoms, and prevent the recurrence of rheumatic fever.