Back in the days when my brothers, my sister and I prayed for each other every night. Actually, we still do.

One summer when I was thirteen, my brothers, my sister and I fell ill with high fevers and other systemic aches and pains which would end up lasting for three months. It started early in the summer and we each dropped like dominoes. All four of us became sicker as each day passed. I still remember the severe headaches in the back of my head. I had a fever of 104 degrees that would not break for two weeks. My parents moved out of their bedroom giving it over to us.

One weekend my brother, Bobby’s fever rose above 105 degrees and he had to be hospitalized. We were tested for everything from typhus to tularemia to typhoid but nothing would test out. The doctor was certain that it was not a virus because the neighborhood kids came to visit early on in the illness and never caught it.

I remember getting better and being permitted to go outside for a while and trying to deny to myself the fact that the fever was coming back. The disappointment and the fear it caused was devastating.

Everytime each one of us got a little better and was able to get up out of bed for a while the fever would come roaring back.

It really hurt when my youngest brother, Guy, who was only four years old came down with a fever of 104 degrees. My mother tried everything to get the fever down, including putting him in a bath of lukewarm water. This frightened him so much and he was irritable in the first place. I had a high fever too and could only sit on the floor beside him and stroke his hair and hold the cold cloth on his forehead. This was the days before Tylenol. He kept that high fever for days before it would break. Thank goodness we did have Bayer Aspirin.

We always had Bible study and prayers at night before bed, at this time it became much more meaningful even though it was quieter. We were all quiet because the fevers affected each of us differently. Most of us were sick to our stomachs too. That was another difficulty for our Mother, to keep us hydrated.

Looking back, I don’t know how Mother did it, how she kept her sanity, how she kept her health. There was always a lot of love in our home from both of our parents, there were always hands stretched out with cold cloths stroking our burning foreheads.

One evening my little sister, Lucy became delirious. She claimed to be seeing “little people” in the back woods from her bed and she described the little people my Aunt Hetty tells us that the Cherokee Indian legends say will come right before someone’s death. Lucy’s eyes were wide open and staring into the distance as she described the sight of the Little People and it frightened us.

Lucy was small and had become so frail the doctor was called. He ran some tests and prescribed Chloromycetin, a very powerful antibiotic that was later taken off the market because it was determined to cause blood disease. Ironically, seven years later, Lucy developed thrombophlebitis in her leg. But the medicine helped her and her fever broke and she came out of the delirium.

And yet, we were all spooked by that because just a few years before my mother’s best friend,
Lucy died of a blood clot in her leg that had traveled to her lung when she was only twenty nine years old. So the cure led to another fearful season.

That summer we all learned how to play cards. I learned how to play Solitaire and Hearts. I drew a lot and read a little. My headaches were so bad my eyes were too weak to read for very long so comic books were more my cup of tea. I sipped some tea also but not a lot because it too was dehydrating.

One of the things we were looking forward to at the end of the summer was our cousins, Jeanne and Junior’s wedding in early September. Our goal was to be well enough to be in the wedding. I remember still having the headache as Jeanne walked down the aisle but we were there for it. For months after school started I began to despair that I would never rid myself of the hated headaches. But sometime that winter they went away. I would get twinges sometimes but the fever was gone, and didn’t return again.

We had great healthcare back then and it was affordable. Sure, with the improvement in lab technology the unknown bacteria would have probably been discovered today but I still have my suspicions that we were suffering from Tularemia because we did have a rabbit that died that summer. Our doctor, Dr. Shearer, was the best doctor in town, our parents did not have to buy health insurance during those days in order to afford health care, or in order to pay for my brother’s hospitalization or for the drugs used to treat us.

My father’s form of health insurance? It was called WORK. He worked, then he collected a paycheck. Then he paid the doctor’s bill. He did the same with the hospital bill and the pharmacy bill.

We were sick for three months and perhaps that time might have been shortened with better drugs or a better diagnosis but I have my doubts. We suffered what we suffered. We are a closer family for the suffering. My brothers, my sister and I each had our crisis and we rallied around each other and our mother and father were always there for us. We became card sharks. We became comic book authorities and prayer warriors.

The company that developed Chloromycetin was sued but the drug was so valuable that it is today still being used under a doctor’s care but only for serious, life threatening illnesses.

Our Mother was a stay at home mom when we were so sick that summer, later she became a working Mom. I can’t imagine what I would have done had my three children become sick for so long for three months one summer. But in our family we were taught you do what you have to do and we still do that.

In these stressful times we will do what we have to do to keep our family close and healthy. It’s a shame that those in high places in our government don’t have any history of family hardship that made them strong and resolute but perhaps they never did become strong and resolute people.

Perhaps that is the problem.