But that summer was a huge deal, as I got sick. I guess that I probably got a sore throat first. I don't remember the particulars, but apparently my parents didn't think that I was sick enough for the doctor, so they didn't take me.
I eventually got a fever----a really high one, and they couldn't get it to go down.
So, they finally took me to the doctor. I do remember a bit about this time of my life. I never got sick, and we didn't go to the doctor hardly ever, so this was a big thing for us. I was scared, but I felt so bad, was tired all the time and my head and throat hurt.
At the doctors office, they checked me out, poked, prodded me and then they took blood. And they took more blood. Then we went home.
The next day, the doctor called my Mom and told her to bring me in. I still felt horrible, and it was an effort to get me ready to go, but we went back in. They talked to my Mom, took more blood, and then gave me a shot.
I didn't really understand at the time what I had. My parents told me that I had rheumatic fever, and that it was very dangerous, and that I had to get shots and take medicine or I could die. They told me that I HAD to stay in bed and sleep a lot and don't try to play, as I HAD to get better.
It was a very scary time for me. All I could think of was that I really wanted to be able to go to school in the fall, but maybe I would die and not be able to go to school! I was also supposed to be a flower girl for my Aunts wedding. My Mom had made a beautiful lavender dress, with a chiffon type material overlay----with lace on all the edges. It was an amazing dress and I remember crying when I was told that I couldn't be in the wedding. It just didn't seem fair.
I didn't understand how I could be so sick, and why wouldn't I get better by then?
I don't know if you know very much about rheumatic fever. It is basically a disease that starts when you have strep throat and you don't go on antibiotics----and after about two weeks, the bacteria starts to affect your heart, joints and muscles. The result is scarring of the heart valves, leaving you with a heart murmur.
But this all takes a while to go through. It isn't over in a week. It isn't over in a month. It isn't over in two months.
No, it takes about three months until one gets over rheumatic fever. And the effect that it has on your body is terrible during this time. The first few weeks aren't too bad, except you have a fever for quite a while and your joints feel a bit achy. But as the disease starts to affect your muscles, you are no longer able to use them. My parents used to carry me into their bed every morning for the day. This was where the TV was, so I could watch some TV shows during the day. I think that I watched a lot of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
And I had to go to the doctor every day. Well, I am not sure if it was every day, but it felt like it. So I would go get my shot each morning, but they had to get me dressed, and get me ready, as I eventually couldn't sit up or walk or anything----then for some reason----I don't know why---but I remember laying on the floor of the living room as I waited for everyone to get ready and out the door. And I remember crying. Crying because I couldn't move, and because I didn't understand what was happening to me and I didn't like to get the shots. I hated the shots. And the blood work. I hated the blood work. They would take blood each time and then give me a shot in the other arm. Then, in the afternoon, a nurse that lived across the street would come over and give me a shot in my bottom.
I still remember thinking that they were taking all of my blood out. I thought that this was the reason that I couldn't move, because they took too much blood out. It was traumatic, to say the least. And I also kept wondering if I was going to die. I don't believe that they explained it very well to me, as it was probably a bit of an unknown then, and......well,.....one just didn't talk about those things to young children. (To this day, I can't watch when someone takes my blood or gives me a shot, it really bothers me.)
So......you probably guessed what they were giving me, ladies and gentlemen------it was penicillin. It was the new wonder drug and they gave me a lot, as I feel that they weren't sure how much would get rid of this terrible disease. So, I basically got two shots of penicillin a day.
Now, one of the other traumatic things that have to do with not being able to move or walk is that I wasn't able to even go to the bathroom by myself. I remember being so embarrassed because my Dad would have to take me to the bathroom in the morning before he left, and then when he got home. I don't remember my Mom carrying me. I also don't remember having to be bathed, but I think that my Mom just gave me "sponge" baths.
I do remember my Mom having to wait on me, bringing me every meal, and trying to keep me entertained. My little brother, Jeff, was about two years old, so this couldn't have been easy for her----watching a toddler and taking care of me, as well as my older sister, Janene----who was only seven.
I know that I wasn't very happy at this time in my life. I cried quite a bit, (well, that's understandable) as I slowly began to heal. And by the third month, I was able to start moving my limbs, and slowly but surely, I got better. I did end up having to start school late, so I wasn't very happy about that.
Of course, I eventually returned to my normal self----and went back to having my usual adventures----of which I will continue to share with you. I had to take penicillin, two times a day, until I was about 16.
Here I am, getting my hair done for church, several months after I got better (yes, that is the old-fashioned way to dry your hair!)----note my parents bed behind me----
I spent a lot of time there.
I spent a lot of time there.
Here I am at 5 years old, the Christmas after my illness. Don't you love the dress?
Now you can see how this incident was the first time that I thought that I was going to die.
You'll have to wait until the next installment to read about the second one.....