Though there were others, a search through the nooks and crannies of my mind reveals only one incident that I can actually remember going to the doctor. Dad took me to the office. A nurse ushered me into a room where I was told to lie on my stomach on the table. Within seconds I felt a shooting pain in my backside. I jerked and voiced a rather loud “owww!” This resulted in no sympathy. No sucker or stickers. I was coldly instructed to get up and go back to the waiting room.
Mom and Dad occasionally related a story of my much-earlier experience in the doctor’s office. When I was little, I had some sort of cyst on the back of my head that bled profusely with the slightest bump. When you are three, bumps happen quite often. The doctor prescribed cauterization. The first time went fine, according to my parents, but the cyst grew back. Months later, when the nurse wheeled the same cauterizing machine into the room, I narrowed my eyes, mustered up all the courage a little girl can muster and ordered, “You put that thing away!” Those words were probably the closest to whining we ever got. Of course, she ignored me. At least the bloody thing did not grow back again.
Dorothy needed to stay in the Huron Hospital when the doctor removed a dark mole from her face. Only a third grader, tears fell when Dad went home, and she had to spend the night all alone. Knowing that complaining would accomplish nothing, she toughed it through the night.
Delmer clearly recalls his stay in the hospital when he broke his arm. It happened during noon recess on a cold winter day in Erwin. A popular playground attraction, the tall pipe-framed swings, beckoned to the older boys. A fourth grader, Delmer grabbed both ropes on the middle swing, pulled himself up on the two-by-six board and proceeded to pump his legs rapidly back and forth. Soon, my brother proudly realized he was soaring higher than the boys on either side. An adrenaline rush pulsed through him as he scoped the ground below. A few yards ahead of the swings lay a soft white snow drift, gently sculpted by the South Dakota wind.
A glorious image of flying through the air flashed through the young boy’s imagination. All at once, he “sort of fell.” His flight scored an Olympic 2 instead of his envisioned 10. He crashed right through the snow drift, landing with a sickening crunch on his right arm. An older boy, Elwyn, helped him into the school. The superintendent took one look at the protruding bone, called the folks and went to get Dorothy to wait with her brother.
Dad drove him to the doctor in De Smet. For some reason, the waiting time extended through two hours as the boy endured excruciating pain. At last, the nurse escorted them to the exam room. The doctor walked in the door wielding a huge syringe with a three-inch needle. Dad remarked to his son later that he wondered if it would come out the other side of the arm. In spite of the ominous needle, the shot did not alleviate the pain.
After a few minutes, the doctor grasped Delmer’s hand and elbow simultaneously and pulled. At once the pain subsided as though the bones had been set in place. Doc wrapped the arm in plaster gauze and then formed the cast with layer upon layer of off-white plaster. Finally, Delmer was ready to go home, but that was not to be.
Concerned that the wrist and hand would swell from the two broken bones, the doctor ordered a stay in the Huron Hospital. Delmer recalls that night as one of the longest in his life.
A pungent odor of antiseptic hung in the air, stinging Delmer’s nostrils with each breath. Every time he came close to dozing, the squeak of leather shoes on waxed linoleum echoed down the hall. The nurse, dressed in white from her stiffly starched cap to her practical white footwear, strode in and checked his wrist. She spoke no words of comfort or encouragement. Obviously, she did not want to know how he felt. Her bedside manner exuded the message, loud and clear: Tough it up! The telltale “squeak, squeak” grated in his ears as she stepped out the door until the next time.
The following day Dad and Mom rescued Delmer from the hospital and stopped at the College of Commerce to pick up Deloris for the weekend. She crawled in the back seat. Tears filled her eyes when she saw the cumbersome cast on her little brother’s arm. He hefted up the heavy, rigid mass and shot her his silly grin.
Through our growing-up years, we survived breaks, bumps and bruises and the occasional visit to a doctor’s office. We toughed it up. When we had to, we bravely (mostly) endured pain and carried on. No sense whining. No sense complaining. It wouldn’t have made any difference.
DeAnn Kruempel grew up on a farm near De Smet, SD, the sixth child of Harrison and Mabel Wolkow. She attended school at Erwin and De Smet. Married Vicar Robert Kruempel and lived in Benedict, ND, Toeterville, Akron, and Missouri Valley, IA. The author now resides on an acreage near Logan, IA and is employed as Children's Librarian at Missouri Valley Public Library. DeAnn has written a series of five books, "Promises to Keep," which are available at Amazon.com.