Back to our program in progress after that good news yesterday of my improved prostate PSA score.
My Mother made an appointment with our family doctor, a small, humorless and disagreeable man named Dr. Samuel Specter of Coatesville, PA. Yes, I spelled out his whole name because I want his treatment of me on the record....forever.
|Not my actual doctor but very similar in appearance and attitude towards me|
Dr. Specter looked at my papers and examined me and then pronounced that I had a hernia. I had a hernia? Not that I knew of. In his usual irritated manner he told my Mother "He were born with a hernia. He didn't pass your Army physical because he has a hernia. His hernia is inactive but could become active during the strain of physical activity during basic training and the Army doesn't want the expense for treating him. He cannot join the Army until he has an operation to repair his hernia."
Dr. Specter scheduled me for surgery to repair my hernia. I didn't have any say in the procedure, they decided for me. I was damaged goods and I should be fixed. That was "Fifties" thinking.
On June 21st, 1959 I had my surgery to repair my hernia. This was the first surgery I had since I was nine years old when I had my tonsils taken out. I remember at that time I was knocked out with ether. All I remember before going out was sinking into a black and white spiral. This time I was knocked out without the B & W spiral. However, when I woke up I had this tremendous pain in my left abdomen. It felt like I had been slashed with a sword. Actually, I had been cut open on my left abdomen right through all that muscle. It was the same as if I had been on a medieval battlefield. Damn it hurt!
As I came out of my anesthesia haze, I saw my Mother sitting beside my bed looking at me. She said they had operated on me and the operation was a "success."
I was in the hospital for the next nine days. On Tuesday June 30th, 1959 I was discharged from the hospital with a huge bandage on my left side, which I had to change daily. It still hurt like hell. I was so sore.
|Chester County Hospital - where I was born in 1941 and almost died in 1959|
I was given instructions to "go easy" and not to walk too much and definitely don't do steps. Thus I began my convalescence from this very invasive hernia surgery at home.
One week....two weeks....three weeks...gradually the soreness of the gigantic cut in my left abdomen subsided only to be replaced with pounding headaches. Since I wasn't allowed much physical activity I attributed my headaches to my lack of exercise and sitting around our house all day eating family size bags of potato chips and boxes of Whitman chocolates. I was bored.
|Yes, I ate everyone - I ate so many boxes of chocolates those days that I haven't eaten any since|
My weight ballooned from 160 to 202 pounds. My headaches got worse. At time my headaches got so bad I couldn't even stand up. I had to lie down....to eat my potato chips and chocolate candy.
|Me, 17 years old and 200 lbs - my heaviest weight ever|
When my headaches got to where they felt like an anvil banging in my head, my Mother took me back to Dr. Specter. He was annoyed (as usual) and said nothing was the matter with me. I believed him. After all I was lazing around the house, stuffing my face and getting no exercise. He said I should get more exercise.
We went home. My headaches became worse. We went back to the doctor.....one, two and then three times. The last time we visited him he shouted to my Mother "There's nothing the matter with him! It's all in his head!"
We returned home again. By now I was popping aspirin like Pez tablets, hoping to alleviate the pain of my splitting headaches (which I can remember so well even to this day). I had to lie down, I could not stand or walk; the pain was that great. I actually believed the doctor that it was "all in my head."
Then one night, I awoke in the middle of the night and my headache was gone. I turned over in bed and I felt something sticky on my side. I smelled a sickeningly sweet odor. I thought I had the biggest wet dream ever. I turned on the light. What I saw in my bed, what I was lying in, was a huge mass of purple and red pus. My incision was open!
I panicked. I thought my guts were going to fall out if I got out of bed. I called for my Mother whose bedroom ajoined mine. She came in and looked aghast at the mess in my bed. I was confused and scared. I wasn't in pain but my foot look incision was opening and closing like a mouth everytime I moved. I was in shock.
My Mother called the ambulence. It was about three o'clock in the morning when the ER people snaked their way through our narrow ranch house to my bedroom. They placed me on their gurney. Again, I was so afraid my insides would fall out. I only had my tee shirt on. I had removed my underwear because it was soaked with that sickenly sweet pus.
The ER guys took me out of the house and slide the gurney with me on it into the back of their ambulence with the flashing lights twirling around.
They roared out of our driveway, down Hopewell Road, then Creek Road into Downingtown. By now it was about five in the morning and people were starting to stir for a new day. The ambulance went screaming down Lincoln Highway (Route 30), right through the center of town. It's funny to think of it now but my main concern then was how embarrassed I was to be riding through the center of town in this ambulance with only my tee-shirt on. Of course my lower extremeties were covered with a blanket but still, why did the ambulance have to have all glass windows on BOTH sides?
Note: this is the type of ambulance they took me to the hospital in - glass windows on both sides right through the center of town! Not like today's ambulances which look like Brink's trucks. (Disregard Buddy Ebsen and David Canary at the beginning of this video and the Los Angeles Freeway. This was the only You Tube video I could find that had the same kind of Cadillac ambulance with the see through windows that took me through the center of my hometown, sirens screaming and lights flashing so everyone could see me!)
After the ambulance careened through the main street of Downingtown it continued onward to Rt. 322 and the Chester County Hospital in West Chester, the hospital where I was born 17 years earlier.
|Chester County Hospital - West Chester PA - the beautiful Mediterranean style building where I was born in 1941|
When the ambulance arrived at the hospital I didn't go through the main entrance but instead the ambulance went around the back and entered the hospital through a below ground level garage, the "Contagian Unit." I still remember the sign outside the entrance:
NO ENTRY! CONTAGIAN UNIT! INFECTIOUS DISEASES!
|Hospital contagion ward similar to the one I was put in 1959 - very 1930's|
I didn't remember the rest of the diseases, all I remember is that they were listed in alphabetical order and if I didn't die of what I had I surely would die of something I caught in the Contagion Ward. What I do remember clearly was that I couldn't get out and the windows were wire mesh.
This is how I would receive visitors during my month long stay in the contagion ward.
Next up, the highly infectious and contagious disease that shot me like a wet wad out of a cannon into the hospital Contagion Ward.