I mentioned recently that I had been away from blogging and housebound, most of the time, due to an accident I suffered last April. This is not the first time I have found myself in this position. This has happened for short periods more times than I can count. But, long-term confinements (like my recent one) has happened a total of four times. This last one was probably the worst though because I lost most of the use of my left hand and was gradually losing the use of my right so it was hard to entertain myself. I did not blog because hunt and peck typing with one finger takes ages.
My first stint at being housebound began near the end of my freshman year of high school. There was no known reason for me to be sick but I was dragging through my days. Every time I sat down I had trouble staying awake. I lost my appetite. It was exam time so Mom would not let me skip school. I just couldn’t concentrate. I had trouble staying awake during tests. This went on for several weeks. Then early one Saturday morning I was lying on the living room sofa and overheard a conversation between my parents in the kitchen. Dad told my mother he wasn’t feeling well and had been listless all week. He was going to go into town to see the doctor. Mom told Dad that I had been dragging around for weeks so perhaps he should take me with him. Dad said he would prefer not to because he had other business to see to afterward. Mom insisted and said he could leave me in the car.
So off on the thirty-mile drive to town we went. We did not have a regular doctor and when needed we went to a clinic. You signed in and waited your turn. Dad wanted to get there early so he didn’t have to wait long. When we arrived Dad signed in but he did not put my name on the list. I had an eerie feeling he did not intend to pay for me to see the doctor.
Dad was called into the exam room and I sat in the waiting room for a very long time. Finally, a nurse came and got me. She told me my father was very ill and the doctor wanted to see me. I went into the room where my father was and the doctor started to ask me lots of questions. Then he drew some blood. We had to wait for the results.
After another very long wait, the doctor returned and told my father that I had the same illness he had but I had had it longer and my case was worse. The doctor asked if we had anyone who could drive us home. Dad said no. Dad was told that we should both go home and go straight to bed and we were to stay there until our next doctor’s appointment in one month. He gave Dad some prescriptions for each of us. He also wanted all the rest of the family in his office that very morning to be checked out. The clinic closed at noon on Saturdays but the doctor was going to wait for them to get there but he did not want them to dawdle. Our illness was very contagious and everyone had to be seen immediately so they could get gamma globulin shots if they were not already infected.
I ask the doctor what it was we had and the doctor said Hepatitis. When we got home Dad told Mom she was going to have to take all the kids back to town to see the doctor. She asked how? She did not drive. Dad said he was too sick to take them and she should call our next door neighbor Carol for a ride. I was never mentioned. Dad went to his room and went to bed. Carol agreed to take everyone and they soon left. I went back to the couch in the living room.
It was early May of 1960. By then I had eight siblings. The youngest had been born that April and was about three weeks old. About four hours passed without any news, then the phone rang. I answered it and learned that everyone had passed the test for Hepatitis.
However, my second oldest brother Richard had been complaining of a stomach ache for several days and Mom didn’t pay much attention to his complaints because he was always getting a belly ache. If he got the least bit excited or stressed he would complain his tummy hurt. To be safe Mom mentioned this to the doctor and it turned out that Richard had appendicitis and his appendix was on the verge of rupturing. He was going to the hospital for surgery and mom was going to stay with him until he could come home. Carol was bringing the children home for me to take care of.
Needless to say I did not have time to go back to bed and stay there. I had to get supper started. Plus, every half hour or so Dad was yelling for me to bring him a cup of coffee, the newspaper, or some such item.
Richard’s appendix ruptured during his surgery so he was in the hospital longer than expected. Mom returned home with him about a week later. That is when we learned there was an epidemic of hepatitis in our area. The hospital was full of people with it and they soon ran out of beds. Patients were lining the hallways and the employee dining room was converted to a dormitory. The hospital started to keep only the worst patients and everyone else had to be treated at home. Before long, a large red placard was attached to our front door warning everyone who knocked that we were under quarantine.
The county health department investigated the outbreak and discovered the source of the contamination was the water supply at the Catholic grade school were my siblings went to school. I rode the grade school bus to the school and transferred to a bus that took all the parish students to the high school in another town. I was the one who drank the water and got sick first. My father was still in a weakened condition from a previous chemical infection so he caught his hepatitis from me. We also learned that when the school was built in the early part of the century, they put the cistern and the septic tank in the same hole divided by a brick and concrete wall. Over time, the wall cracked and the sewage seeped into the water supply. The school was shut down until a new cistern and septic tank could be installed.
Dad never did tell mom that I was supposed to be following the same doctor's orders he was. So that never happened. I did, however, miss the last two weeks of school that year partly because of how I felt but, mostly because I was needed at home to care for my father.
When we returned to see the doctor in June Dad was better but I showed no improvement. The doctor upped my dose of medicine. In July the doctor released Dad to return to work but I was worse than before. The doctor asked Dad if he could explain why I was not improving. He said no. I then got angry and told the doctor my father was a liar. I told the doctor about babysitting when Richard was in the hospital, waiting on Dad hand and foot for months and that I was still doing all my regular chores and babysitting when Mom went to work at the family auction house with my brothers. I also said that Dad had no intention of having me seen on our first visit and he never told my mother how sick I really was.
The doctor read my father the riot act and then called my mother and did the same with her. When we got home I was sent to bed and my parents had a huge row. I ended up missing the first two weeks of school that September before the doctor would sign my absentee release form.If he had not been so sick I’m sure my father would have given me a severe paddling for choosing to be heard instead of seen.