The siege of being hospitalized and on the critical list for three and a half months was over. Had it not been for the advice of Robert Riggins, when I was thirteen years old, well....I am sure that I would never have had the strength to walk out on Dr. Aaron-Smith and his white coat; to defy this kindly doctor's orders and fly on my own. Had I waited until four o'clock in the afternoon as Dr. Arron-Smith requested, the chances are, that our little one would no longer be with us.
So here we are....home once again...Gitty had beaten the odds...She was alive. We were ever so grateful to all the Doctors and staff at Children's hospital. What in incredible team. There is no way to thank someone enough in such circumstances but perhaps the recounting of this tale will help someone else someday. Our little family was together and beginning life anew and not at all sure just what that would be. We walked on eggs watching "Pretty-Gitty" like a hawk. Checking and rechecking for any returning symptoms. Great care was given to keeping and extremely clean house, always wondering if I had been the cause of Gitty's illness.
What next? Now begins "The Great Year of the Scrub" Everything needed to be washed and bleach-washed and scrubbed before entering her room and clothing was removed before leaving the room This forced regimen of bleaching and scrubbing became a way of life for the next seven months. There was no choice here. The work had to be done without let up. Every minute of every day was scheduled. Seven days a week. I stayed awake as long as possible to make sure that there would be no mistakes in Gitty's care. No chances could be taken.
Both children thrived in the Maryland sunshine but we were afraid to let our guard down. As the months slipped by, little by little the fear of another attack subsided and life did in fact return to normal During this time, I was determined to keep Gitty as close to me as possible. I spoke to her every day just as if she could hear me and see me...just like a normal child...But was she? We couldn't tell. She was lovely to look at and she almost always had a smile on her face, but her left side was still very much weakened by the disease. We could see no improvement. Her left eye still wandered aimlessly. It was impossible to assess the damage done to her physically or mentally. No one knew how much of our child would be left when all was said and done. We were so glad to have her home again, that we didn't care, nor did we notice her disabilities or slow developmental progress....or perhaps....when we did...we just ignored it. I took her with me everywhere and talked to her constantly. She could not sit up in a chair, so I strapped her to my back in a child's seat or harnessed her up in her high chair so that she would not fall forward.
Gitty was a very beautiful child with a cheerful disposition. She got lots of hugs and lots of cuddling. Her brother seemed to recognize her limitations and was invariably kind and gentle with her. He loved and cared for his little sister. Perhaps because we spoke to her all the time, he did too. McKay would draw pictures and present them to her. He would bring to her, his fuzzy animals and hold them up close so that she could feel their fur against her cheeks...Sometimes I would hear him sharing his favorite bedtime stories.
Somewhere along the way we moved away from Edmonston to a neighboring village in Brentwood, Maryland. This somewhat larger house made of brick, had a fine patch of green for a front lawn. It was a very happy time for all of us. Bowie was making great progress with his Masters Degree and was very happy to be back in a collegiate setting. I loved being a mother and was very involved with the raising of the children and keeping house. I could not make sculpture during this period but I could paint murals. It was easy to keep a box of non-toxic water paints available. I painted the children's room with murals which were magical in nature. I painted jungle scenes with every animal I could think of. Elephants, Zebra, Lions, Tigers and Bears wandered through a landscape of giant flowers, brilliantly colored and mixed with huge, broad leafed palms which showed a bright sun, shining beside an eclipsed moon. McKay would point out the animals to Gitty and try to teach her their names. It was a sight to see. In the late spring, we took our first trip to the Washington Zoo. The excitement was high when the children saw the animals on their wall at home, come to life.
As with the raising of all children, childhood illnesses do come along, and one fine day, along came a nasty Strept-throat, which grabbed hold of McKay. Then...It got Gitty. Along with the Strept-Throat, she developed whopping case of Erysipelas. (Erysipelas is a systemic allergic reaction to the toxin produced by the Streptococcus bacteria.) The result being, that the skin itself becomes infected and a raging fever ensues. Her little body just boiled over, erupting with large yellow blisters, five and six inches in circumference that, covered her entire body. ....and I do mean all of it...inside and out! The yellow blisters were interrupted with black patches of necrotic tissue. It appeared as though she had been in a fire.
Another long hard fight in the medical department was just beginning, but this time we had our Dr. Ross to steer us through. And so he did. Our little Gitty, made it through once again. At the same time, McKay was ill with multiple colds, sore throats and ear infections. He ended up with a tonsillectomy, two adenoid operations and ear tubes in both ears. Thank goodness for Dr. Ross. Back on track once again, life was busy, happy and in and out of the doctor's office. By this time, we had come to know Dr. Ross's Family and we have remained friends over the years.
Gitty was now fourteen months old. One evening, at the dinner table, the children were finishing up a desert of Raspberry Jell-o. Gitty was strapped up in her high chair to keep her from falling forward. You must remember here that Up to this point in time, she had never uttered a word. No "Mama," No "Papa." Just bubbling, gurgling sounds could be heard. On this special night...Out of the blue, Gitty lifted up her head for the first time since her illness had begun more than a year ago...and then....low and behold, Gitty spoke a complete sentence. "I-want-sum-more!" These words were quickly followed by: "I-wanna-git-down." It was breath taking. How could this be? Carefully, I unstrapped the harness which held her in the high chair and placed her on the floor.....Next Gitty pronounced: "I-want-some-unner-pants." And that was that....We had before us a doggone miracle!" At sixteen months of age, Gitty stood up and walked. There was no crawling. All of a sudden one day, she just stood up and walked. There was no stopping her now. She wanted to get back into life in a big way and do everything that her big brother could do and this...she did!
The battle had been won in life's game of chance. We grabbed hold and held fast to that once chance in a hundred. Dr. Robert Riggins, Dr. Sydney Ross, Dr.H.H. Schumann, a dear taxi cab driver, Lab technician Al Godfrey and beautiful nurse Florence on the third floor.. The doctors, nurses and staff members at Children's Hospital, Mummy and Daddy, a dear and supportive husband, and modern medicine, all came together to save the life of this happy little spirit. Both children have grown up to be healthy, happy, productive citizens. Gitty has never once exhibited any traces of her battle against the dread Salmonella D. Gitty and her brother have remained close friends and both are now artists in their own rite, although they know better. I have warned them that being an artist, is not on Harvard's list of preferred financial activities. Never the less,........ if it is what you do....It's what you do!