I was born way back when there was only one doctor. This was the family physician. If you were too sick to travel to his office he would make a house call.
I was 7 when I caught red measles at school. Vaccinations hadn’t yet come into vogue. At one point my fever rose to 103 degrees, and I was hallucinating. Mama called our doctor, who said, “Pack her in ice. I’ll be there in a few minutes!” All I remember was trying to understand why my brother and sister were trying to freeze me to death, and I was throwing ice cubes and screaming at them.
Penicillin was the one and only wonder drug at the time. I was around 12 when I began having tonsillitis once or twice a year. Our doctor would give me a heavy duty shot of penicillin in the hip. It felt like molten lava going in, but the next day I could have out-wrestled an alligator.
A couple of years later my parents took me to a specialist. He recommended that I have my tonsils surgically removed. Thank goodness they first conferred with our family doctor, who was also a member of our church. He told them, “She doesn’t need surgery. Just let her outgrow this.” And he was right. I was 20 years old the last time I had it.
Mama was certain that regular elimination was the most important component of good health. She always kept Ex-Lax on hand and told us kids it tasted just like chocolate. Well, I begged to differ. There was a grate in the hallway floor of our house that had a heater underneath. The second time I was given Ex-Lax, I decided that was the perfect place to deposit the nasty stuff when Mama wasn’t looking. Unfortunately, that heater was once again turned on in late September. I was in big trouble when all that stinky melted goo was discovered down there.
We kids had occasional earaches from being outside in cold weather. Mama would heat the little bottle of sweet oil on the stove in a pan of water. When the oil was just the right temperature, she’d put a few drops of it in the painful ear. A piece of cotton would be gently inserted to keep the drops in place. Within an hour or so the pain was gone.
Of course we all caught chickenpox at school. My case was mild, but I still had to wear mittens to keep from scratching, because that would leave scars. I was lucky to have only one, and it’s on my waist. Nobody even noticed it when I wore a two-piece swimsuit. For all the minor cuts, sunburns and bruises we used iodine, calamine lotion or cold wet cloths.
What kept us so healthy and strong? Our diet of home-grown vegetables, unpasteurized milk straight from our cow, meat and eggs from our farm-raised animals. Walking barefoot. Spending lots of time outdoors in the fresh air. Caring for animals. Working all our muscles doing chores.