“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
John Lennon, Beautiful Boy
July 10th, 1945 – Davidson, Saskatchewan. I am busy in our little store-home. We’re so proud of our funny little house. We moved in 43 days ago on May 29th, a newlywed couple. Sheldon leaves early to join the seismic crew at their meeting place. The crew then drives out to where they are working. He loves his job as assistant in the instrument truck. Funny thing, he didn’t eat much breakfast, said he wasn’t hungry. Oh well, I’ll have a big supper ready when he gets home.
Time surely flies by. It is mid-morning already. I hear a truck stop outside, and go to the door to look out. It’s Gerry, the Party Chief. He is helping Sheldon out.
“Gerry, Sheldon – What’s wrong?” Sheldon just shakes his head.
“Sorry Marj, we don’t know,” Gerry says. “He wasn’t feeling well, and then passed out.” I run out to them and take Sheldon’s other arm.
“Sheldon, what’s wrong?” He smiles weakly.
“Don’t know, Marjie. Help me get to bed. I feel awful.”
It takes both Gerry and me to get Sheldon to the bed. We pull off his work boots and pants, and throw a blanket over him.
Gerry says, “Listen you two, this is very unusual, and we must find out what is causing it. There is the possibility that it may be something contagious. For that reason do not let anyone come in. Marj, you stay in too. I will keep in close touch, and bring you anything you need. Don’t panic. There has to be an answer. I’ll go and find the doctor and send him down.”
I start to protest and he says, “I know Marj, the doc has a poor reputation around town, but he’s all we have. Give him a try.”
With that he claps Sheldon on the shoulder and is off.
I fall on my knees beside the bed and put my head on Sheldon’s pillow. I can’t help it, the tears pour down my face, and sobs are shaking my body. Sheldon puts one arm around me and hugs me.
“Don’t cry Marjie, it will be alright. I’m scared too, but there has to be a medical reason for this, so we’ll have to get an answer. I haven’t felt quite right for the last few days – as if I was getting the flu or something like that. Now let me sleep until the doc comes.”
Eventually the doctor arrives and examined Sheldon in a cursory manner.
“You have German Measles, young man. There is a light rash over your body. It will be better in a few days. Stay in bed and I’ll drop in tomorrow.”
When he was out of the door, Sheldon shakes his head and speaks.
“Marj, I had a real dose of German Measles when I was in my teens. I don’t know if I can get them again, but that sickness was not like this one.”
It was a long, restless night, but morning finally came. Sheldon has not eaten much. I wonder if the doctor will come when, oh – there he is.
“Good morning, doctor, thank you for coming.”
“Good morning, young lady. How is the patient?”
“Not feeling very good, I’m afraid.”
The doctor examines Sheldon. The rash has disappeared. He gives Sheldon a shot of some medicine, not saying what it is, and departs. We’re pretty concerned and talk over our options. Sheldon has a plan.
“Marjie, we must get help. When that guy comes tomorrow, he’ll have another diagnosis. Help me get to the phone at the hotel, and I’ll call Keir MacGougan in Regina.”
“Do you think you can walk to the hotel? It is a long block away and you’re so weak and wobbly.”
“Give me a hand and I think I’ll make it.”
Off we go, with his arm around my shoulders and my arm around his waist. At the hotel I find a chair and drag it to the phone. Keir is a doctor and a family friend. He is in the Armed Forces, and stationed at a base camp in Regina. Sheldon gets him on the phone and tells him our story. Keir is a great guy, and a jovial character. I hear his voice boom out.
“Get on a train and come to Regina immediately. I’m sure I know what is wrong – lots of the boys at the base have it. Won’t kill you but it isn’t nice. Get a cab and come to our house. You’ll stay here. I will make an appointment with a specialist at the Grey Nuns’ Hospital for you.”
I phone Gerry and explain the situation. He goes to the station and gets two tickets for the first train to Regina. He comes to our house and talks with Sheldon.
“You will need some cash in your pockets. Write me a cheque and I’ll get some money for you. Marj – pack what you will need for a few days. I’ll be back in a jiff and drive you to the station.” Once there he gives us a short lecture.
“Do not worry about anything here. It is my job to take care of our crew and their families. Just keep me posted so I will know what is going on. Good luck.”
We board the train and are off. Sheldon is so tired he can hardly sit up. The train porter brings us pillows, and Sheldon falls asleep. As people board the porter says, “The young chap is sick,” and the passengers move on and give us a wide berth.
Sheldon sleeps most of the way to Regina. Once there I find a cab, help Sheldon into it, and we are off. We get to Peggy and Keir MacGougan’s house and pull up. As I’m helping Sheldon out of the cab, they come to their front door. Keir laughs and calls out, “Now that I see you, Sheldon, I know my guess was right. Come on in and I’ll make sure.”
Peggy scolds him. “Keir – You get right down there and help those poor kids, before both of them fall on their faces.”
He laughs and runs down the walk. With his help we get Sheldon and our bags into the house.
Sheldon is in bed and asleep. I stay up and answer Keir’s questions about the onset of this illness. It is wonderful to be with them and have their strength, love and concern. Keir’s positive belief that Sheldon will pull through this just fine takes a great fear away, and the load on my shoulders has disappeared.
I slept well last night. This morning Keir dropped us off at the Grey Nuns’ Hospital. Sheldon has to get lab work done before we see the specialist.
“It’s taking a long time, isn’t it, Sheldon? Dr. Freeman did the examination and the blood samples this morning. I thought we would hear from him sooner.”
“Don’t be impatient, Marj. This Grey Nuns’ Hospital is big, and I’m not his only patient. We’re lucky Keir knows him. Getting an instant appointment with a specialist is unusual.”
“How are you feeling now?”
“I feel fine lying here in bed in a private room, but even sitting up makes me dizzy.”
Sheldon reaches out and I go to his bedside and hold his hand. He appears so calm, but I know we both are worried. This illness is so sudden and so strange. My mind is in a whirl. Question after question pushes in. I squeeze his hand and speak to him.
“Try to relax, Sheldon. We will soon know.”
Just then the door opens and Dr. Freeman walks in. He nods, and in his formal way says, “Good afternoon, Mrs. Gibson. There is a chair by the bed. Why don’t you sit down? This may take some time.”
I pull the chair closer and sit down. As I reach for Sheldon’s hand again, my hand is trembling. Freeman is talking.
“It has taken some time: the blood test themselves are complicated. Listen closely to what I am telling you. It is very important that you understand me, and prepare yourselves to follow my instructions. Mr. Gibson: Here is your diagnosis.”
…to be continued in next post