On Monday morning, July 13th, 1959 I ended up back in the hospital, the contagion ward located in the basement of the Chester County Hospital. I arrived at about five a.m. in the morning. I was sure I was on my way out of this world. Even though I wasn't in pain (thank God), I was falling apart because my incision was open. I wasn't whole.
|Hospital ward similar to the one I was in only the windows weren't as big, the were small, and high up an covered with write grates|
I don't remember a whole lot about the sequence of events the next day except that different doctors came by to "take a look" at my open incision. Sometime after my placement in my bed, which was only separated by a curtain on either side from the hospital beds on either side of me, a nurse came by to clean out my "wound." Oh how did it stink. It was full of pus. Even that word sounds icky.
|Taking a look|
Folks, I could have died of this staph infection. I found out later that if my incision had not busted open, the staph would have entered my bloodstream and I would have died of sepsis. The only reason my incision busted open was because of all the aspirin I was taking for my splitting headaches. Note: I wasn't taking aspirin because my doctor recommended it but because I needed something to alleviate my excruciating headaches. Yes folks, aspirin saved my life. No help from my doctor. To this day, I take a daily aspirin, occasionally more when needed.
I forgot how long I was in the contagion ward. Maybe my friend Lar can refresh my memory, he visited me often. Note: Larry just refreshed my memory of the dates. I left the contagion ward on Friday July 31st, 1959. What I do remember before the first of my three surgeries was what happen the second day. I couldn't sleep the first night at the hospital because of the moaning of the 13 year old boy in the bed next to me, separated only by a curtain. The next morning, when the nurse came by to clean out my incision, I told her "I couldn't get any sleep last night because of all that moaning." She brusquely told me "You won't have to worry about that anymore, he died last night." I found out later he died of meningitis. I felt so guilty. I didn't complain any more, not even when the 56 year old man on the other side of me, who had gangrene of his foot who was also moaning in pain, tore off his toenail and threw it over his partition and landed on my windowsill. I left it there.
Two things I remember clearly, I was very bored during my multiple week stay. I forget how long I was in the contagion ward. I remember reading the whole book "The Mouse That Roared" and I looked forward to the bland, Jello meals that the hospital provided. I also remember the visits through my wire caged window to my sub basement quarters from my Mother and my friend Larry. No one else visited me. I was convinced I would never leave that contagion ward.
Eventually I did leave after my surgery. Didn't last long though, my infection came back and I was returned to the hospital. This time my Mom drove me to the hospital for my next stay. At least my second stay I wasn't in the contagion ward.
I had my third surgery on Sunday October 18th, 1959. I was discharged again from the hospital on November 7th, 1959, two days before my 18th birthday. Happy birthday!
I remember that the room costs $20 a day which I thought was very expensive (this was 1959 before the medical establishment figured out they could make a LOT more money by "unbundling" the medical and hospital bills.
I went home again and the infection came back. I went back to the hospital again for yet another operation.
|Candy-strippers who were going to help me plan my escape from the hospital|
I had spent most of the summer of 1959 in the Chester County Hospital. The month was November. The weather was cold outside. I thought I would never get out of the hospital. I was depressed. There were two candy strippers who used to come by my room (I had a semi-private room now) and attempt to cheer me up. I wanted to leave the hospital. I became very friendly with them. They were going to help me "escape."
Here's the plan: I was going to catch the Short Line bus and go home. Only one problem, I didn't have any clothes. I only had my pajamas, bathrobe (which I still have!) and slippers. They were going to get me a coat to put over my bathroom and pajamas but couldn't shoes for me. I couldn't see me getting on the bus in the cold weather with only slippers. I was sure the bus driver of the Short Line bus would catch me and turn me in. We aborted my escape.
Turns out two weeks later I was "released". I went home in December. After three surgeries my infection finally didn't come back. I got the all clear.
In a few weeks before Christmas my Mom and I went to the Army recruiter in Coatesville again to get a new departure date. My hernia was gone and I was qualified to join the Army. My induction date was set for January 27th, 1960. Now to await the date that I will never forget the rest of my life.
By the way, this series of blog postings is turning into a biography of my early years so I'm thinking of changing the title of future blog postings. Any suggestions?
My friend Larry (who is providing me the dates of my hospital entries and expulsions from his mother and grandmother's diaries) with my girlfriend Virginia "Ginny" Maurar and me (on the right. This was my "chunky" period when I put on a lot of weight, November 1959.