Scarlet Fever hits our family … 1943
Isn’t it strange how our memories seem to pop to the surface when we least expect them? I was listening to a book review recently on National Public Radio and the author spoke of a family member who had suffered with Scarlet Fever. I was transported immediately to the lawn of a large hospital in Boston.
I remember that my Mother and sisters and I were on the lawn because we were not allowed inside the building. This was a very large hospital dedicated to the care and (hopefully) recovery of patients with Scarlet Fever. Of course it was under strict quarantine and our only communication with my sister, who was in a ward room on the 3rd floor, was with the aid of hand written messages.
That particular memory of sighting Barbara in the window and holding up my greeting poster was very vivid to me although it has been 64 years ago. However, try as I might, I couldn’t remember anything other than that, and I began to think that it was all a figment of my imagination.
I am the youngest of five girls and Barbara is the second from the oldest. She has just turned 80 and I wondered if she would corroborate my memory. Sure enough, she not only remembered the instance but was able to fill in the empty spots.
She was 16 at the time and we were living in Wellesley Hills, which was approximately 40 minutes from Boston. After the Dr. diagnosed her (on a house visit, no less) with Scarlet Fever he made two decisions. She was to be sent by ambulance to the city hospital and the rest of us were quarantined in our house for two weeks.
Barbara said that it was a great thrill to ride in the ambulance and that she was too sick to miss us much for the first week. Then, as she grew stronger, she had little time to fret. World War II was raging and the nursing staff had been cut to a bare minimum. As she, and the other patients, got stronger they pitched in to help wherever it was needed.
Even in the 1940’s the words Scarlet Fever conjured up death and disfigurement …. remember Beth, in “Little Women”? It must have been agonizing for my folks and it was over a month before Barbara was considered out of danger. Then it would be another two weeks before she was allowed out of quarantine.
My only memory of that time, and it is fleeting, was the occasion on the lawn of the hospital. I was ten years old then and I’m sure I was mightily impressed with my hand written sign. I can see myself holding it high and angled so that Barbara could read it. I see her in the window, waving and happy that we were there.
I wonder what I wrote?