Bridge in Autumn

We had lived in the Paxton area for several months but had not yet established a family doctor. Doctor Hilgenberg at Tolono, Illinois, had served our growing family for twelve years before we moved to Paxton. He had delivered two babies, David and me, and seen my family through a multitude of young adult and childhood illnesses, but we needed a doctor close to our new home. Our neighbors recommended Dr. Peterson, who had earned their loyalty through many years of sacrificial service.

I had been ill for a several days with an increasingly severe sore throat. Dad and I climbed the long dark stairway to Dr. Peterson’s office on the second floor of a downtown business—he carried me the last half of the stairs. We entered a crowded waiting room and sat for what seemed like an eternity to my seven year old internal clock. Finally the nurse called us into the doctor’s examining room, and Dr. Peterson gave his diagnosis. It was a simple case of the mumps.

“He’s already had the mumps,” my father answered. He had them a year ago when his brother did.”

Dr. Peterson was not perturbed. “He has them again. It happens sometimes.”

We went home and resumed the waiting for the mumps to take their course. As the days wore on, the fever increased, as did the swelling and pain, not only of my throat, but in my chest and in the joints in arms and legs. Mom and Dad became more anxious as I became sicker, and they decided to try the new clinic that had just opened with some physicians new to the community.

Dr. Noble was not well-known, as Dr. Peterson had been, and he was exceptionally sober and reserved. “Not mumps.”  I recall that he mentioned two more words—penicillin and hospital, which led to a conversation about how to care for me at home and come in for a shot and exam every day for the next as yet undetermined number of days.

That is how I began second grade, at home, making regular trips to the clinic for shots in my sore butt, and doing homework assignments while lying on the couch, with occasional drawings and letters from my classmates that my teacher, Mrs. White, included with the assignments  sent home with Mom. As I gradually began to feel better, it was a treat to receive the attention of classmates from a distance. I was ready some weeks later to go back to school, but I soon learned that I was behind everyone else in my class and had some catching up to do. When reading aloud I was the slowest and far from the smoothest.

Dr. Noble listened to my heart everyday and told me that I had developed  a murmur, but it wasn’t too bad. From that point on I could always feel my own heartbeat and assumed that everyone else could, too.