Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Remembering the time when I was quarantined

Talk of quarantine for Ebola-exposed people took me back to the early 1950s, when nurses in white uniforms from the Anson County Health Department posted a QUARANTINE sign on the front door of our modest farmhouse.

My older sister had scarlet fever and lay in a darkened back bedroom, so the other six members of the family were forbidden to leave the house. Our term in home detention was a week or 10 days, as best I remember.

The year was 1953 or '54, I think. I was small enough that when I peeked inside the bedroom where all the children, except the youngest, usually slept, I was looking upward at the bed, where my sister's silent, feverish body lay. My mother shooed me out of the doorway promptly. One sick child was enough.

My memory recalls only a couple of scenes from that period of quarantine. My father could not go to work, and the children could not go to school. I could not play with my sister, four years older than I, as I usually did. We could not even go to church on Sunday. My parents could abide missing school, but not missing church. So we all got dressed in our church clothes on Sunday morning, and Daddy preached to the little congregation sitting on the cedar chest and ladderback chairs in our parents' bedroom. We sang hymns and read Scripture.

When our time in quarantine expired, my oldest brother went out the front door and tore the sign down. My sick sister recovered, only to die less than a decade later in a tragic car accident.

About 20 years after that quarantine, my wife called me to say our toddler daughter, our only child, had a raging fever. I rushed home and we took her to the hospital. The diagnosis: scarlet fever. She received a prescription and medication to bring her fever down. She recovered quickly. We were not quarantined.

Medical care had improved, much for the better.

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