“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
John Lennon, Beautiful Boy
“Mr. Gibson, I have your results. You have an illness long recognized, but not understood. Very recently, tests have been developed that enable us to diagnosis and help this disease to run its course safely. It is called Acute Infectious Mononucleosis. Usually it is young, healthy men who contract mononucleosis – say, in universities or the military. You can expect complete recovery, eventually.”
“How long, Dr. Freeman?” asks Sheldon.
“If you follow my instructions, recovery should take two or three months.”
“Will Marjorie get it?”
“Possibly, but not for sure. Her immune system may be stronger.”
My mind is in a whirl. Question after question pushes in. Will Sheldon lose his job? The doctor is saying he must do nothing but sleep and eat, then gradually begin to exercise. Three months! Where will we stay? The doctor is saying we must go to where there is good medical care and, hopefully, family help. Sounds like Lethbridge to me: Mother G lives there. She was a nurse, and her cousins are doctors and have a clinic in that city.
“So far, no medicinal treatment has been found that helps,” says Dr. Freeman. “What is strongly recommended is very little exertion, a great deal of rest, and good nutritious food. In addition, avoid crowds. Your immune system will not be back to normal for some time, and you don’t want to pick up a secondary infection. As you start to feel better, begin gentle exercise. Now, consider how you can best implement my directions. That’s all the help I can offer.”
Dr. Freeman rises to leave. He pauses, turns and says, “My consultant’s fee, and the hospital bill, will be mailed to you in care of Dr. Keir MacGougan. Good luck with your recovery.” With that, he left.
We are both stunned. Then a wave of emotion floods over us. I fall on my knees beside Sheldon’s bed and throw my arms around him. We are both laughing, crying and talking all at once. Finally we calm down.
“It’s not something that will kill me or put me in a wheelchair, Marjie. I have wondered about both those possibilities.”
“No, and the way to recovery sounds pretty painless.”
“Three months! That’s a long time. Bring my cheque book to me next time you come. I wonder how much we have left in our regular account.”
“We must owe the company money, Sheldon. There are the train tickets, and our month-end bills in Davidson to pay. We’ve lots of things to sort out, but the great thing is that you’re going to be well again.”
“That’s right, Marjie – and I love you so. I’m so exhausted I can’t think straight.”
“Go to sleep, honey. I’ll go back to Peggy and Keir’s home. Tonight I’ll phone your mother and bring her up to date.”
“Oh yes, Marjie – as soon as you can. Have Keir talk to her and explain everything. This will be hard on her. We will have to help with her expenses too, you know.”
“It will work out – it has to. Our other special bank account will have to be used. We’re lucky to have an option. No more, dear. Go to sleep and I’ll see you in the morning.”
There is a celebration when I get back to the MacGougan’s and tell them of our meeting with the specialist.
“I told you so, didn’t I?” Keir chortles. “I must admit that I agree with his description of the disease and the treatment to aid recovery. It can take a long time to get back to normal. You do realize you will have to go home to Isabel in Lethbridge, don’t you?”
“I know, Keir. I must phone her right away. She must be very worried. You know her house, Keir. Where will she put us? She has a boarder in the extra bedroom. What about the danger of infection for her? It seems so much to dump on her. How shall I tell her?”
“Slow down, Marj. Peggy, take this kid, feed her and put her to bed. She’s exhausted. Marj, leave this to me. Isabel is an old friend and a good one, a nurse and Sheldon’s mother. We will sort it out between us, and I’ll fill you in tomorrow. Sleep till you wake up.”
I did sleep in this morning. Keir has gone to work. As she makes my breakfast, Peggy says; “Keir and Isabel talked things over and everything is worked out. He is sending the Haig doctors all the latest information on mononucleosis that has been collected at the base. Isabel has a friend who will take her boarder until Sheldon can go back to work. She said to tell you not to worry – just come.”
Tears are close again. I’m getting too emotional. Can’t have that, there is so much to do.
“Peggy, I can’t thank you enough for all you and Keir are doing for us. Before I go back to the hospital I must phone Gerry and give him the news. If the crew moves he will have a job on his hands. I don’t know how the company will handle the fact that Sheldon can’t work, probably for several months.”
“One more thing Marj. Do you two need a loan? We can manage that.”
I am choking up again, but hug her and say; “Many thanks once again, but no. We do have an emergency fund in a separate account. I guess this counts as an emergency.”
We are on the train for Lethbridge, and will soon be there. Sheldon has been sleeping most of the way.
“Wake up, Sheldon. We are almost there. I have our things packed up. Here’s my mirror. What about combing your hair?”
“Good idea. Can you please bring me a drink of water from the restroom? My mouth is so dry.”
In a few minutes we are ready, and just in time. The train slows. We see the station ahead. Sheldon is sitting by the window and is peering ahead. He laughs.
“Marjie – there’s a welcoming committee on the platform.”
We let the car empty before we get up to go. The porter comes and says, “Go ahead, I’ll bring your bags out.”
I climb down the steps and turn to help Sheldon, but no need. Both Haig doctors are there to take his arms. His mother is hugging him and crying, and giving all of us instructions. I look at the performance and think, “This is as Keir said it would be, family pitching in when it is needed.”
Time flies by. Sheldon improves steadily, if slowly. He sleeps a lot, eats well, walks normally, but still tires quickly. There are weekly blood tests. The vital component shows he is improving. He now plays a few holes of golf with his cousins, Dr. Willard and Dr. Arthur Haig, several times a week. He keeps in touch with the Party Chief, and receives partial monthly cheques. We are so grateful for all the help and concern from friends, family, and fellow crew members.
We wonder how long the crew can work short handed. Will a replacement have to be hired for Sheldon? These are not trivial things. As Sheldon says, “Marjie, it is impossible not to be concerned. I’ve been off work for one and a half months, and not yet able to return.”
“But Sheldon, you are so much better. The blood tests show steady improvement.”
“I’m not worried any more about recovering, but will I still have a job to go to? Our emergency fund is going down too.”
“Sheldon, at this point there is nothing else we can do. Let’s hope your tests let you go back to work soon.”
Mother G has come in, and heard our conversation. She points out that the specialist said the recovery could take up to three months.
And so more weeks tick by. One day a letter arrives, addressed to Sheldon. Mother brings it in and hands it to him.
“Why is Gerry writing you?” I ask. Sheldon is looking at the address. He lays the letter down, and answers. “It’s not from Gerry, Marjie – it’s from head office.”
“What do you mean by ‘head office’?” asks Mother G.
“We have a field office to manage our seismic crew. Every crew has their own. They all report to a head office that oversees the exploration in this region.”
We look at one another, and then at the letter. There is a hush in the room as Sheldon slowly reaches for the letter, picks it up and starts to open the envelope.
to be continued in the next post