Saturday, December 12, 2015

"The Old Man's Friend"

Fifty-five years ago today I spent my first day home after being in the hospital eight days. Since the first of December I had been fighting what I thought was a cold. I felt so miserable I even had to pass on a chance to go to Kansas City with my future in-laws. My temperature would stay around 101° and then go up to 104°.  On December 3 I wrote in my diary, "I don't know what I have. I'm beginning to worry".
The next day, a Sunday, I wrote that I "Felt 100% better. Nearly well except for pain when I cough."

At that time we doctored with a physician from Villisca. He made his rounds at the hospital in Corning on Sunday morning and you could go out there to see him instead of driving to Villisca. Mom and Dad decided to take me to see him.
This is what I wrote: "He examined me and said I had pneumonia and put me to bed -- in the hospital! Isn't that the dumbest thing you ever heard?"
I was a senior in high school. (We had just received our senior pictures the Wednesday before. This pose was my favorite - serious and without my glasses. But it was not the one that made it into the annual or on the wall at home.)

I wasn't allowed out of bed that first day. Until supper I had "only had pills and cough syrup." I was probably hungry when I wrote that - I had missed lunch. My roommate was "an elderly lady, Jessie Leatherman." At the time I remember thinking it was dumb that they would put me in a room with an old woman - why not someone younger? Someone I could relate to? Besides, what I knew from my cousins about her, Miss Leatherman was not a very nice person. She taught at the country school my cousins had attended and I remembered their horrible stories about her.

My diary is full of all the minutiae of hospital routine - what else did I have to write about? What surpises me looking back is how many visitors I had - and who some of them were. Family members and our minister, of course, but also some kids from high school who barely spoke to me there.

 Tuesday evening, "Mom and Dad brot the single red rosebud I wanted so bad. Beautiful - Love it." I did not record why I wanted a rose so bad; wish I had.
Both my grandmothers, aunts, a great-aunt, cousins, neighbors, even my school bus driver and the sheriff all stopped by to check on me!

By Friday I was bored enough and well enough that "one of the sisters (Rosary Hospital was still being run by the nuns) had me stamp numbers on some slips for her."

My friend, Bill Arbuckle brought his chess set out and we played chess a couple of nights - "He won, of course." I had also read Mary Roberts Rinehart's Episode of the Wandering Knife and pronounced it very good. "Only half through and 3 murders so far." My love of mysteries goes way back.

By Saturday I was feeling pretty good - well enough that Mom and Grandma Ridnour brought my little brother out to see me. Children weren't allowed to visit in patient rooms so, "I went out to the waiting room to see Leslie. Read his comic book to him." I remember being so glad to see him. I think I may have been missing him the most.

Having that 'elderly lady' as a roommate turned out to be not so bad. If all my teen age visitors bothered her, she never let on. In times of quiet I got to know her a little better and decided she wasn't nearly the ogre my cousins had made her out to be. On Friday they moved us both from the second floor down to the first. "The sisters gave me some flowers from a funeral, so I made Jessie and I each a bouquet."
Jessie lived almost exactly another two years after our time together in the hospital, dying November 20, 1962 aged 80+ years. Her obituary doesn't say if she died from 'the old man's friend' (pneumonia), but I would not be surprised if that was the cause - especially if pneumonia was the reason we had been roommates.

On Sunday afternoon, December 11, one week after Dr. Croxdale put me in the hospital, he let me go home. I was still coughing some and felt pretty tired most of the time. I stayed home another three days before going back to school. I remember how my chest hurt just to breath in the cold winter air. I had walking pneumonia two or three times in later years, but never another hospital stay for it.

It is called the 'old man's friend' because the patient often lapses into a state of reduced consciousness, slipping peacefully away in their sleep. It happened thus for my mother. Does my early bout of pneumonia portend the same for me?

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