I was sitting in the over-sized crib, all four walls of metal bars surrounding me with but one thought, "How did I get here? The clothing I had been wearing had been taken off me by a stranger. Even my best underwear (worn just for the occasion) was traded for some seriously faded, slightly too small cotton number that looked like it was as old as I was! Who was wearing MY clothes and where had my mother gone? Why did she let them do this to me? At five years old, most of the unexplained things that happened to me were said to be "for your own good" but this was really too humiliating to be counted as "good". "How did I get here?"
For some time my mother had been asking her friends who were also raising small children if their kids ever seemed to have trouble hearing. She had become concerned because I was not responding to her when my back was turned or when I was not in sight of her. "You've got to be kidding," was something of the nature of what their replies had been. "She doesn't WANT to hear you! If your daughter is playing or doing just about anything, she is not likely to want to be interrupted so she just 'doesn't hear
you'. That way she doesn't HAVE to do what you want her to do but won't get in trouble for not coming. Don't you get it? Relax; she's fine." My dear mother TRIED to relax but, fortunately for me, she did not relax too much!
"Crash!" sounded the lid of Mom's Dutch oven as she stood just behind me and dropped the heavy metal cover. When my reaction was zip, Mom gathered me up in her arms and headed for the doctor's. My second grade sister was likely at school but I am not sure what she did with the two-year-old. Took her to stay at the home of one of her not-so-worried friends while she took me to the doctor? Probably.
The doctor let my mother know that I was very close to deaf and had she not brought me to him when she did, it would have been too late to recover any of my hearing. As it was, he could not guarantee how much would return. I needed surgery and would be admitted ASAP to the pediatrics ward of the hospital in the big city fifteen miles away. I do realize that in this present climate of fast cars and multi-lane interstate highways, fifteen miles is not a long journey. However, in 1954, the speed limit on that two-lane highway was 45 mph and, at my young age, it was a world away from my family.
Now, here I was…. all alone, in someone else's clothes and locked into the biggest baby bed I had ever seen in my life! Why did they think I needed to be in a baby bed, anyhow? Didn't they have any real beds for kids in this hospital? Then came the uniformed parade of people wanting something from this confused little sojourner! They stuck me with a needle and collected my blood in a few tubes for all the usual pre-op lab test. I was fine with needle-sticks as long as I could watch so the biggest conflict here came when they repeatedly insisted I turn my head so I couldn't see the needle go in! Peeing on demand had never been my strong point…. just ask my parents who waited so many times beside the road for me to relieve myself since it was many miles to the next gas station, having refused to try to go only three minutes ago when we were at a gas station! Now the lady wanted urine in a plastic bowl that she set on the bed and wanted it "right now." She would put it in a little plastic cup with a lid that had my name on it for the lab man who was waiting for it at the nurse's desk…talk about pressure to perform! The last person just wanted to count the beats of my heart and take my blood pressure, okay, that was no big deal. However, in those days children had to have their temperatures taken rectally because some dumb kid tried to break the thermometer one day years ago. No amount of pleading that I knew how to keep the thermometer in my mouth because my mother did it that way and I knew not to bite down on it made a bit of difference. Rules were rules, you know! And, I thought that wearing someone else's underwear was the worst thing in the world; nope, this place had other things even worse than that!
****Scene 2 coming tomorrow