happiness

Edna’s Story 28 (FGK 145)

I’ve mentioned that talking about Mom’s years in the hospital was pretty much a taboo subject in our home. Reading this and some of the letters, I can understand why it was – it must have been incredibly traumatic for Mom not to mention the rest of her family. I can not imagine leaving my sick child at the hospital and not being able to go visit them. Grandma’s strength and faith just continues to blow me away. I always knew she was a fantastic woman but the more I learn about how she handled herself during challenging times the more in awe I am. And Mom – the strength she must have had to pull herself through these years -she was only 11 when she went into hospital.

We took her in to see Dr. Price early in the morning and he had us take her to the Holy Cross Hospital where they took a spinal test to confirm our fears. Dr. Price took us into an office to tell us he was very concerned about us having to receive such shocking news. But somehow the full force of the tragedy hadn’t reached me yet. We had to take her to the Isolation Hospital and they wouldn’t let me go in with her but asked me to wait on the steps for a while. Then they brought me all her clothes and the full force of it hit me. I broke down. We were not allowed to visit her but to get first hand information we would go down to the door and talk to her nurse. It seemed every time we went down there they were wheeling in another victim from an ambulance. It was a terrible epidemic. The government put out a call for more lung machines and they didn’t have enough. Margi said she will always remember the terrible noise of those big machines all night and all day pumping air into the people around her whose lungs were paralyzed. Margi was fortunate that she could breathe but her arms, legs, back and some of her abdomen muscles were paralyzed. She lay on her back without moving for well over a year. I lost track of time somehow. The government sent to Australia where they were more used to a polio epidemic and asked for skilled people to come and help advise us. One nursing sister who had worked with Sister Kenny in Australia came to the hospital and asked for me to meet her. She put a sterile gown on me and let me go in and visit Margi for a few minutes, then she walked with me to the door. She said she had given Margi a thorough muscle test and that it wold be much better if Margi would die right now because her back was so bad she would never even be able to sit in a wheelchair. And her stomach muscles were so bad she couldn’t keep her food down and she was too sick to stand the hot-pack treatment. The hot packs were strips of wool blanked put in hot water, wrung out then wrapped around paralyzed limbs. That was a famous cure of Sister Kenny, it kept the limbs from becoming rigid. The constant odour of hot wool packs was anything but pleasant but that didn’t matter. I told her I just couldn’t accept defeat yet, I still had plenty of faith and hope and felt she would improve if we could get her out of there. The allotted time for her quarantine came and I was so pleased to think I could visit her now. But there was a lot I had to learn. I had never heard of a closed hospital until then. Our own doctors were not allowed in the Red Cross Crippled Children’s Hospital, only as a visitor and if the parent was unable to visit. They had more rules and regulations in that hospital than the most fiendish mind could ever think up. As I later often said – “God never made laws like they had, they were just too unnatural.” Another thing that made it so hard for so many polio victims was that the hospital just wasn’t geared for very sick people, the children they were used to were healthy lively, but deformed ones.

Margi didn’t improve, she was just rapidly fading away and couldn’t keep anything in her stomach. We were allowed to visit her for about a half hour on Sunday afternoon and Wednesday if it was convenient for the staff. Finally we went to one of their leading doctors and told them she was so ill. He was quite surprised and got on the phone to confirm what I had said and was quite upset to think nothing had been done to keep her from becoming dehydrated. He ordered an intravenous immediately. She just lay there for months like that then, they could hardly find a new spot to put the intravenous needle in. People often told me you go into that hospital to visit and come out counting your blessings and that’s certainly true. There were so may very sad cases there. Christmas was coming and Margi still couldn’t’ keep any food down nor move at all. I asked the doctor if he thought a change of scene might help her. We would get a hospital bed, a nurse, and bring her home in an ambulance for Christmas. He said “You might as well she’s not going to get any better.” We brought her home for Christmas and it was so good to have her with us.

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