Monday, July 31, 2017


Massachusetts General Hospital
March 12, 1966   
     I’m picturing you and Daddy on your way to Martha’s Vineyard.  It looks like perfect flying weather.  They cranked me up a little higher than usual for breakfast this morning, and I can almost see New York.  The sky is a pale but unmistakable blue; I can recognize the Prudential and John Hancock buildings, and a tall dark church—Arlington St?  I can see the snow on the Charles River; it shouldn’t be long before it is replaced by boatloads of eager, rowing lads.  The seagulls winging along the river stand out in sharp relief today.  Even in a city, there is beauty waiting to be appreciated. 
     My study notes are open on my tray and I do intend to tackle them with vigor but . . . I have been thinking about you and Daddy.  I worry sometimes that you’ll think I take your visits for granted.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Trouble with hospitals, they don’t permit enough ordinary conversations—or ordinary anything. 
     I know it’s natural to get depressed or restless now and then, and a good cry is probably a release for me, but it doesn’t do anyone any good when I express those fears.  If the surface of my mind becomes recalcitrant, and dwells on probable impossibilities such as my ever riding a horse again, I want simply to draw a curtain over it.  I have too many months to go to give in to depression, and yet these foolish thoughts push into my brain and overflow hot and wet over my face.
     Although I know I’ve been able to show good spirits to almost all visitors, my weaknesses betray themselves to the people I care about the most—my parents and Dick. I know you all love me enough to bear with me, but I hope my own love will strengthen my resolve. You mean the world to me —forgive all my words. 
March 15, 1966
Massachusetts General Hospital
To Mr. Lievore , Kathie’s principal
     Mass. General is like any big overgrown agency ‑‑ lots of  mixups and confusions and hysterics.  Take last Saturday.  Three  of our "rehab" nurses called in sick, so a new nurse "floated" up  from another floor.  She gave fair warning of her dizziness.  She  went from patient to patient handing out thermometers and bending  over to explain that she had been sick with the flu and still felt deathly ill. 
     When she assured the head nurse that she was experienced  with Stryker frames, she was sent in to get me ready for turning.  This was an experience I shall never forget.  Assuming you know as little about ye fine Stryker as the floater did, I'll explain  that the straps with foam  rubber over them; all kinds of pillows and padding are needed to  keep the victim—I mean the patient—from getting bed sores from the forced immobility. 
     Miss Dizzy's first boner was to put the other half of the frame over me, leaving out the pads and pillows I need for my  "on‑the‑back" position.  Moreover, she clomped the frame down onto my sheets, blankets, and pillow.  I protested, but she insisted all was well and started hauling sheets and blankets out from under the top frame.  Sheets and blankets may be soft, but when they're dragging across my suture line and a bed sore . . .
     Fortunately Dick was there, and by the time Miss Dizzy had  started pushing and shoving pads under the top frame, he had  fetched the head nurse.  Off came the top frame, and the project was renewed in a more normal and comfortable fashion.  Every time Dick and I think about that dizzy nurse, we have to laugh. 
     Then there's Dr. Constable.  He's the skin specialist who recently grafted my bedsore to be sure it would heal properly. He's a huge, craggy‑looking Englishman, dedicated to his work.   All the nurses are afraid of him because he is so austere; he has been known to hit the ceiling if a dressing is done incorrectly.
     Since I'm not easily intimidated, I soon discovered Dr. C.  has a hidden sense of humor.  When I got indignant over his taking pictures of my bedsore (it's bad enough when staff  members stand around and gawk at my behind), he pointed out that I'd need something for my Christmas cards next year.  And when he decided I wouldn't require the extra piece of donor skin he had saved after my grafting operation, he said, "No sense wasting it; I'll send it down to the kitchen."  He complained to Dick that the dressing he had put on after the grafting was lopsided because he  had never dealt with such a "jolly" patient.  Nothing makes me happier than jollying a grin out of Dr. Constable.
     I will have to be on the Stryker for about two more months  for my bone grafts to "take" satisfactorily.  Then they'll have  me in a wheelchair and going home weekends as soon as possible.   I can't wait to be by the ocean again.  Dick better start lifting weights because I expect to be pushed right down to the water's edge.

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