Friday, August 29, 2008

Hot Packs

The Home for Crippled Children, which had hired me, was located out in the country about twenty minutes from a large city. The countryside was idyllic and could have been the setting for Tara. It was sitting on the top of a knoll and the view was breathtaking.

When I arrived I was taken to my quarters in the attic of the building. The paitients were housed on the main floor, the kitchen and dining room were housed in an addition. First thing to get through was meeting with the doctors and then with the hot pack girls and then with the patients. The main MD was an elderly man who had retired before the war. He was a fine man who took such tender care of his young patients. He was interested in the new treatment and was very willing to try it. Everyone knew that the old treatment was in parts deterrent to success. They had already purchased old washing machines with manual wringers. And they had hired young girls to do the hotpacking. The doctors were relieved to have me there, for they had spent a lot of time assuring the parents that their children were going to get the best treatment.

When the patients were finished with napping I got to meet them and the hotpack girls at the same time. It was time for the fourth hot pack of the day. I was so glad that I had arrived when I did, for watching the young hot pack girls was a shock. I decided not to correct anybody until I had watched for a while, but that fell by the first time I saw the first application.

The woolen packs were taken out of the nearly boiling water with metal thongs. They shook the pack so it cooled, and then slapped it on the affected limb on the patient. I was shocked and had to speak up at once. So I said: May I show you how to do this. I took the pack, quickly put it through the wringer and immediately put it on the thigh. The poor child cried out and began sobbing. I stroked her brow and asked her, it isn't too hot now, is it. She smiled through her tears and said no, it's OK.
I said to let the hot packing stop for the rest of the day. And told the hot pack girls that I needed to talk with them.

We met in the basement in the photographer's office. When I told them that the packing would be totally useless unless they were put on as hot as possible. The reason we use wool is that it wont burn them. but if you want these cute children to go home soon, then we have to give them the correct treatment. Now I want to pretend that you are all having polio and need a hotpack. To make it easy for you and for me let's only use your fore arm for the demonstration. If you don't want to learn you don't have to.

The fist one, about sixteen years old was brave. She stuck her arm out and only flinched a little when the hot wool was wrapped around her arm. Part of a rubber sheet covered the wool and another piece of wool covered the whole arm. Who's next. Both of the others said they did not want to do it, claiming they knew it hurt. I asked hp girl number one if it hurt. She said no. Now I would like to have hpgirl nr2 do it the way I saw you do it upsairs. will you volunteer, I asked hpgirl nr 3. She agreed. So I let hpgirl nr 2 wave the hot pack in the air as long as she wanted to before touching it to the arm of her victim.

We set the timer on 20 min. I removed the packing of my victim. I let the other two hpgirls feel it. It was still very warm. Then the other two removed the other pack and were surprised at how cool it was. Do you want the children to recover as soon as possible or do you want to make their stay longer? You have to promise to give HOT packs. And if you can't do it we will have to find people who can do it. Practice on each other. make sure all the water is squeesed out or it could be uncomfortable. Spend the rest of the afternoon on this. Before you go home be sure to tell me if you can do it. At the end of the day all three girls said they would do it right.

I spent the rest of the day reading the charts of the patients. Then it was time for our supper. I was doomed to remain skinny. The supper consisted of grits and mustard greens and a plum.


Emiana said...

I love this story. There is so much in it. Svensto, you rock.

hello haha narf said...

i am so glad you stood your ground and were confident enough to ensure those children got the care they needed.

scargosun said...

You have the magic touch with people! It's amazing to read about.

Anonymous said...

So interesting. I had polio in 1944 when I was not quite 5, here in NC. My doctor chose not to send me out of town to a hospital for polio victims, but instead (with my parents agreement) treat me with these very same treatments plus other ideas he had..I remember the washer/wringer machine used for the hot packs, which were placed up and down my spine most of the day. I was supposed to stay in bed..but when not watched would sneak to window to talk to my next door girlfriend. We (my parents) were under quarantine and could only leave the house to pick up groceries. My mother was 5 months pregnant with my sister and very scared. Luckily we all came out of it ok. I suffered no paralysis and my sister came with no problems. Don't remember how long we were under quarantine. You brought back such memories..

Anonymous said...

What a blessing you were for those little ones and their parents.