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My First White Christmas

In early December when I was eight, I got very sick. As best as I recall, it began with a cough and then my head began to ache. My mother took me to the pediatrician who diagnosed me with the flu. I was given some medication but didn’t get better. I kept running a temperature and my cough was getting very painful. My mother took me back to the pediatrician who then diagnosed me with tuberculosis and gave me different medication. But the medication wasn’t helping and I when I developed terrible pain in my neck, so my mother took me back to the doctor and this time he diagnosed pneumonia. I remember my parents putting a table with a cloth over my bed and had a humidifier running. My chest was hurting, my head and neck hurt, I was coughing and having a hard time breathing and I was very cold. What I remember the most about that night was my father lying on my bed crying.

The next day I had a temperature of over 105˚. My mother wrapped me in a quilt and drove to the Children’s Hospital downtown. A young doctor saw me and yelled to the nurse to call my doctor. He was pacing in my room and after a time he said, “We can’t wait any longer! Get the needle!” Suddenly my pediatrician walked into the room and said, “What are you doing with my patient?” “Saving her life,” said the young doctor. Then my doctor said to get the needle and some nurses to hold me down. That needle was the biggest I ever saw in my life. I now know it was the needle used in a spinal tap. In addition to pneumonia I had bacterial meningitis.

At this point my memory becomes foggy because I was dying. The doctors were pumping me full of antibiotics, but my fever remained dangerously high. My mother came into my room wearing a green mask and gown and she couldn’t touch me. That scared me. She turned on “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” on the TV, a show I loved, but I didn’t want to watch it. I just remember feeling very foggy and everything seemed to be behind a veil of white.

But after a time, things got clearer again. I had a hard time moving my arms and I was very weak. I missed several months of school as it took me so long to get well because the pneumonia kept coming back. My mother watched my carefully the rest of my life because I got sick so easily and was always physically weak in my arms. Research shows people who have had this disease battle seizures, brain damage, hearing loss, and disability for the rest of their lives, which obviously I have. While I may have started into the white light obviously it wasn’t my time. And that’s the best Christmas gift of all.