The way I remember it, I was like three years old, and I was in the hospital with an abscess from the chicken pox. My mom would have to verify my age, but I know it is one of my earliest memories. It’s not a memory you want a child to have, and that is why I made sure that I have vaccinated my daughter against chicken pox. Not only will she, hopefully, never experience the disease, but never experience its cousin Shingles. My mother had a recent bout, and it is a nightmare.
I contracted chicken pox from my brother. He is just under four years older than me. Back in the day, doctors encouraged parents to allow children to become exposed, so they could go through it while young. Supposedly the disease is worse for adults than children. I just remember itching like crazy and unable to stop. That’s how I got the abscess. It was on my chest, and the more I scratched, the worse it got. Try convincing a little kid to stop, and that the consequences are worse if you don’t. Of course I didn’t listen.
The abscess started filling up my chest with fluid, which was on my sternum. Yeah, around my heart and lungs. Bad stuff. Surgery to remove the abscess was the next thing I remember. I don’t even remember the awful abscess.
The things I do remember are the dark ward, the gurney into the operation, and the nurse putting a cap on me. The dark operating room with the bright light over me, and the black bag inflating and deflating, is the most vivid part. I recall thinking I was dying as I passed out under the anesthesia. Then, somehow, I woke up during the procedure, and the face mask came down over my head as the doctors panicked.
Post operation, I was kept in the children’s ward, inside a plastic bubble around my bed. I can’t remember if that was to protect me from something on the ward, or protect the ward from me, because I had chicken pox. Probably the latter, as I think about that. The room was stark, very bright and white. I don’t recall the lights ever being out in the room.
There are two more memories about this time that had a huge impact: the nurse on the ward and a small pink clown puppet they had given me to play with. The nurse matters because one morning when I woke, I had to pee super bad, and I hit my button to call someone to help me out of the bubble and into the bathroom. No one responded. Let me remind you, that I am three, with a full bladder. I resorted to calling someone, but no one came. I cried, called some more, but nothing. I finally wet the bed, and at that moment the nurse arrived. You’d expect this woman given charge over children would have apologized and eased my tears, dismissed my apologies and helped me get cleaned up. No. Not at all. She admonished me, tore me from the bed, set me on the toilet and belittled me while I sat there. At that moment, she grabbed the pink clown, which I had grown quite attached to and tossed him in the trash, making sure I knew I’d not be getting it back. She then tore me down the hall to get fresh linens and a gown, berating me and snapping the whole way. I continued to apologize.
The nurse made me sit in a chair while she remade the bed, still griping the whole time. I wept, afraid and alone, because in the hospital parents didn’t stay overnight. Or, maybe they had just gone home to get a shower and eat, because things were really different back in the late 1970s. I just know they weren’t there but wanted to be. They did arrive before I was put back in bed. I was so relieved.
You bet the nurse told them I had wet the bed, but when she had left I told them everything. My mom pulled the clown from the trash, and then took that nurse’s ass to task at the desk and then with the administration. I cannot tell you what had happened to her. I can tell you that she in no way ever stained my respect for nursing staff. I love nurses. They have so much respect from me. That one person will never change that. It was my nurses during any of my illnesses that helped me feel comfortable and got me set right again. (When I was choosing my future, pediatric nurse was a strong point on my list.)
The next day, my mom returned to the hospital with my pink clown laundered. He came home with us shortly after, and he never left my bedside (except for a time when I a tween/teen and felt too old for him). I named him pinky. He was my protector. So long as he could see me, he would keep the monsters away.
Did you read my 134th entry of Open Book Blog Hops? You should. I talk about some nightmares I used to have. Pinky was my totem, that I had convinced myself could protect me from those bad dreams and things in them. His presence would negate them, and monsters wouldn’t dare come near while I slept under his watch.
No one told me this. It was all in my head. I’m sure psychiatrists could have some fun analyzing that.
Can you guess where Pinky is now?