The Dean and I | Part 8

by Elouise


It’s December 1967. I’ve worked for Mr. Griswold for just over two years. Right now I’m in the hospital on the university campus. Miserable and getting worse.

Because I’m the wife of a university student, I have great health benefits. This includes access to a medical clinic and hospital right on the campus. Not the university’s main teaching hospital, but one for students and their families.

So it’s nearly Christmas and I’ve come down with bronchitis. My fever suddenly spikes and stays up; serious coughing rips through my chest like fire each time I breathe. The clinic doctor admits me to the hospital immediately.

The hospital doctor orders x-rays of my lungs. He assures me there’s no sign of pneumonia. I just want to get well. Why would I get pneumonia anyway? I’m only 24!

The next day another hospital doctor asks what the first doctor said, listens to my lungs, and orders another set of x-rays. Pneumonia! For sure. No visitors at all except my husband! None. Not that I want any.

After the 2nd or 3rd day of no bath, no hair washing, no talking, no nothing but misery and not enough sleep, and being poked in my arm and listened to while I breath ‘deeply’ (which feels like someone is stabbing my chest), I’m lying there just wanting to be out of my misery.

I hear a voice in the hall. A man’s voice. He’s arguing with the head nurse! Definitely not happy about something.

They go back and forth, but he refuses to budge. He came to see Elouise and he’s going to see her right now! He doesn’t shout, he just sounds authoritative and determined.

Suddenly I hear footsteps coming down the hall. I realize this man is coming to see me no matter what. Worse yet, I recognize his voice.

I can’t believe it. No makeup, hair looking like the wreck of the Hesperus, in my hospital gown (as ‘in’ as one can be), not at all presentable to anyone.

Before I can make beautifying adjustments, Mr. Griswold walks into my room with flowers, stands at the end of the bed, has a few things to say about hospital rules, smiles, and asks me how I’m doing! All I care right now is how I’m looking!

He pulls up a chair and sits himself down. I pull up the sheet a little higher, and try to turn my best side toward him (thinking, of course, about my beautiful hair). I’m working hard to stay with this. And yes, I love the flowers!

He tells me how much he and my coworkers miss me. And how much they want me to get better and come back. Then he tells me to forget about how much sick leave the university allows. I’m not to come back until I’m totally ready! He’ll take care of everything.

It takes me six weeks to even begin thinking about going back to the office. It also takes me six weeks to get over this strange visit.

In the meantime, I’ve discovered I’m pregnant! Which sends me into another tailspin. They gave me a sleeping pill one night because I couldn’t get to sleep!

Did it affect the baby I didn’t know was already growing inside me? I feel guilty, scared and remorseful for accepting the sleeping pill! I wonder what was in it. Do they put Thalidomide in sleeping pills?

I’m writing this and wondering how on earth I managed to get as sane as I think I now am. Mr. Griswold’s visit was absolutely wonderful! Totally out of order, yet totally like him. It cheered me immensely once I got over feeling self-conscious.

Now, in 1967, I have a little problem. I’m pregnant. When will I start telling people? And how long will I be able to work when I finally get back to work? And is this weariness part of being pregnant, or part of recovering from pneumonia? And what about that tiny yellow capsule they gave me? Or was it red?

To be continued. . . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 April 2015