I Missed Fourth Grade

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.

6 comments for “I Missed Fourth Grade

  1. June 26, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    I, too, am glad you survived that year, and some of the other things you’ve mentioned lately. What a great example you are, and an encouragement, to us to remember that we can truly survive and look back on tough times as better people.

    Judy, God has been so good this ‘jar of clay’, so patient, loving and merciful, and I’m very thankful. I want to be a good ‘daughter’ to him.

  2. June 25, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    My mom had Rheumatic fever when she was a little girl and the last few years has had major struggles with her heart.

    I’m glad you survived …. love your blog. 🙂

    I count my blessings that my mom didn’t give in to me wanting to be up and about. If she had not been diligent I likely would be having struggles with my heart too. I will keep you mom in my prayers.

    I love your blog too. Thanks so much for your comments.

  3. Karla
    June 25, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Janice, I am so glad your mom diligently took such good care of you and made you stay in bed so that your heart wasn’t harmed. By the way, you must have been a very good little girl to have stayed in bed even when you felt well.
    Rheumatic fever as a child is the reason my mom needed her heart valves replaced. When she was a child, the doctors probably didn’t realize the damage that rheumatic fever could cause long range. In fact, Mom’s best childhood friend is now struggling with leaky heart valves. I need to ask her if she also had reumatic fever. Thanks for the story.

    Thanks Karla, I’m very thankful for the care my mom gave me too. Your mom was so sweet. I really enjoyed being around her.

  4. June 25, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    For most part, we have no idea the journeys others have taken in life. Thank you for sharing this. I don’t why I didn’t discover your blog earlier, but I’m glad to have found you, Janice!

    So true Greg, until we walk that proverbial mile in another’s shoes we just don’t know what struggles they may be going through.

    I’m glad you found my blog too and I’m truly honored to have you visit.

  5. jel
    June 25, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I’m glad ya made it though that year! 🙂

    Thanks jel…me too! 🙂

  6. June 25, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I love reading your stories. I had tuberculosis at 2 years old, went through surgery for it and medications for a year, speech and mouth/muscle therapy for year….I remember the doctors and those huge x-ray machines (so scarey) nothing like todays x-rays. BUT being in bed like that for a year! Shoot me now. I had to spend a couple of weeks in bed for a broken leg once and then for knee surgeries – but I was able to get up and use the restroom etc. What a journey that was for you I am sure.

    Wow Terry, I didn’t know that about you either!

    It was a journey, and you know I’ve had many….God is still refining me and making me stronger. I’m actually thankful for the many trials I have had. I wasn’t at the time, but they definitely taught me some valuable lessons and taught me compassion.

Comments are closed.