Hearing all these terrible reports about Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and how it has filled 70% of the nation’s hospital beds for children reminds us a lot of children will have very unhappy Christmases. It takes this writer back to a childhood memory of his own.
My personal personal favorite Christmas memory was when I was thirteen years old and in eighth grade. I was a patient in a Maryland children’s hospital, two hundred miles from our home in Virginia, and I had just gone through a series of six orthopedic operations. I looked forward to going home a couple of days after Christmas.
The ward I was in was typical of the time, the majority of my bed mates had polio. This was in the days before a genius doctor named Jonas Salk found a miracle sure that nearly mopped this nation clean of the plague of polio.
So confident of going home was I that I gave my old radio and a stocking of goodies that arrived from a visiting “Santa” to the daughter of a hospital orderly, an African American lady who was facing a bleak Christmas. The look of joy on the woman’s face lit up the room, giving me a beautiful feeling.
However, on Christmas afternoon the rumors started, and in a hospital ward they spread quickly. A measles epidemic had broken out, and the rumored word was quarantine. It was frightening, since we could be stuck there for weeks.
Then my dad came in. My parents arrived late Christmas morning and my mom went downstairs putting together a Christmas dinner for me in the hospital kitchen. Dad saw my tearful face and wanted to know what the matter was. I told him and he said gravely, “Well, the surgeon told us we could call anytime, and I will call him now.”
My dad came back later and looked at me sadly. I asked if I would still get to go home in a few days. My dad replied, “I’m afraid it won’t be next week or even a month from now.” I broke down, and then he hugged me and said, “You are going home now.”