Bite Size Memoir Number 7: Childhood Illness

Where has the week gone?  I can’t believe that it’s already time again to turn in my entry for Lisa’s Bite Size Memoir challenge, the theme of which this week is ‘Childhood Illness’.

As soon as I saw this prompt, I knew exactly what I was going to write about although as always, the challenge is to write in 150 words precisely.

Thankfully I didn’t get ill too often as a child but the worst illness I had was the measles.  Apparently I was very ill with it, to the point of hallucinating and having to stay in a dark room for days.  Something to do with protecting my eyesight.  I don’t remember much at all about it, which is probably just as well.

My bite size memoir is about something quite different:

Childhood Illness

When I was six, I needed an operation to have my tonsils removed.

I remember being carried in the arms of a doctor while wearing a backless robe, then placed on a white bed in the brightly lit operating room. I was asked to count to ten and the next thing I knew, I was back in my own bed on the ward. It was dark, I was alone and I felt sick, so I got out of bed to look for the nurse.

She scolded me for getting up and gave me some medicine, which I immediately threw up all over her.

I was there for two weeks and every tea-time we had insipid looking scrambled eggs which tasted of nothing.

I love eating them but even to this day when doing so, and for no apparent reason, a wave of nausea occasionally washes over me.

Must be psychological.

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
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48 Responses to Bite Size Memoir Number 7: Childhood Illness

  1. Imelda says:

    That would be tough, eating nothing but eggs when you are recuperating. I understand the associations your young mind made.

    Happy Thursday, (or whatever day it is there) Sherri. 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      It was a surreal time Imelda in more ways than one! Things were done very differently back in the 1960s. I felt like I had been away from my family for ages, two weeks is a long time to a child, and those eggs were completely tasteless. The best bit was when my parents brought my grandparents along for an evening visit and they gave me a present. Made it all worth it!
      Happy Thursday to you too Imelda- and yes, it is the afternoon here 🙂

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  2. Lisa Reiter says:

    Those eggs were probably made from dried or liquid ‘egg’ – a totally grim representation of the fresh alternative! The mind-body makes very quick associations when we’re sick – the smell of cider does it for me, but thats’ a different kind of story!
    Thanks for skating in! Lisa x

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    • Sherri says:

      Yes, I expect they were Lisa! I’m surprised they didn’t put me right off! It doesn’t take long does it for these associations to be made. I feel the same way about Bacardi rum for the same reasons that you do about cider I suspect 😉
      Thanks for putting up with my last-minute entry once again 🙂

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  3. It must be strange to go back there in memory because one can never remember all the details so their mind is filled with bits and pieces that often don’t make sense. Incredible that back then you had to stay in the hospital for two weeks for having your tonsils removed! I don’t blame you for not liking eggs! The measles story sounds scary too. 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      It really is Maria. Certain things seem very vivid but other things are very grey. I was in a ward with five or six other girls like me and one of us came down with a high temperature so we all had to stay there until we were all in the clear. It felt like a prison sentence! I was so glad to go back home again 🙂

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  4. jennypellett says:

    Two weeks? Good grief, you’d be lucky to stay overnight these days!
    I remember all those childhood illnesses where we’d be confined to bed – mumps, measles, chickenpox etc. I can never think of a chicken sandwich without a certain amount of nausea as that was what was offered one hot, bed-ridden afternoon – upon which I up chucked all over my eiderdown.

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    • Sherri says:

      I know, can you believe it? As you say Jenny, today it would be done and dusted in a matter of hours! Yes, I do remember being confined to bed for those illnesses and I loved being able to stay home instead of going to school but it’s horrible to be sick on the bed 😦

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  5. I’m glad you threw up on the nurse, Sherri! She shouldn’t have scolded you, you were a scared little girl.
    Two week for tonsils…wow! Like Jenny said, these days, I’m surprised they don’t do drive-thru tonsillectomies!

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    • Sherri says:

      Haha! Well, she wasn’t very nice Jill and was cross with me which even at my young age I thought was very unfair! I was very scared and in those days it was unthinkable to allow parents to stay with their children in the hospital. Two weeks was a long time and due to one of us in the ward coming down with a high fever. I thought I was never coming home! Yes, no doubt drive-thru ops are the way to go these days…all great money saving schemes I’m sure 😉

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    • Makes me wonder what makes a person like her decide to become a nurse? Isn’t nursing called a “helping profession?”

      It’s amazing how old memories can have so much power over us. Your story made me want to jump back in time and take care of little-girl you. I would have told that nurse a few things.

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      • Sherri says:

        Ahh…I feel like my little-girl me just had a great big hug from you Tracy after reading your response and I wish you had been there to give that nurse a piece of your mind! You are right about the power of old memories. The thing is, I was a compliant child to a point, did what I was told and all that, but when I look back I see defining moments when I had to dig really deep and stand up for myself and this was one of those earliest times. I remember thinking that I needed help (because I also woke up to a pillow covered in blood which didn’t help) and so it seemed natural to go and find help. When I did, I was told off!! Then, when the nurse insisted on giving me the medicine I kept trying to tell her that I would be sick and she wouldn’t have it. Well, she got her answer…

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  6. Luanne says:

    Sherri, it really makes me wonder how many times we experience a reaction based on the past and we don’t even realize it. Your experience with the eggs brings that home to me. I too had my tonsils out when I was young, and adenoids even younger, and it’s hard to forget what the hospital experience was like. You’ve brought me back . . . .

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    • Sherri says:

      I have so often wondered about this peculiar thing that happens to me with scrambled eggs Luanne and can only think it has to do with my early experience in the hospital and my association. Just goes to show how powerful these very associations can be. I too had my adenoids out at the same time as my tonsils (didn’t add that due to the word restriction!) and yes, some of these memories never do leave us. I hope reading this didn’t stir up too many unpleasant ones for you…

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  7. prior says:

    well done with the word count – and girl – you have a way with calling it like it is! love it – and I may just think of you the next few times I make eggs…… ahhhhhhhhh

    have a nice day ❤

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    • Sherri says:

      Well I thank you mon amie and I hope you don’t think of me and eggs in a bad way, haha! It’s always amazed me that this association is made even after all these years…
      You have a good day too…soon be time for bed for me 🙂 ❤

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  8. That’s a long time to be hospitalised for a tonsillectomy. My son and hubby were both home the same day, but that was in the 1980’s, and they’d probably improved the op by then. My worst time was when I had mumps, and had to stay in a darkened room for what seemed like forever. My mom’s friend bought a lovely picture of an avenue of trees, to hang on my bedroom wall. It had the verse,”Prayer changes things” along the bottom. Some things just stick in your mind, don’t they? Just like your tasteless scrambled eggs. 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      Yes, a very long time Sylvia and it was due to the fact that some of us in the ward came down with a high temperature, so it seemed like an age before I could return home. Funnily enough, my dad also had his tonsills out around the same time but he was in his 30’s and I remember him sunning himself in the garden while recuperating and having time off work!
      What a lovely picture for you to look at when you were ill, and yes, prayer does indeed change things. I love the thought of having an avenue of trees to look at. Much better than those eggs 😉

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  9. Heyjude says:

    Great memories Sherri! Another similarity between us, I was about the same age when I had my tonsils removed. No idea how long I was in hospital, but I do remember being weighed wearing just my knickers, and I remember some white medicine I had to drink which tasted awful 😦

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    • Sherri says:

      Small world isn’t it Jude? Funny how you remember that about your knickers as having to wear that backless robe really sticks in my mind. Sounds like you had the same medicine as me, I took one taste of it and that was it, all over the nurse. But, I did warn her… 😉

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  10. Sherri, your bite-size memoirs always trigger memories for me!!!
    My dad was 8 when his DENTIST (no kidding) took out his tonsils as he sat strapped down in the dental chair. Clipped them and cauterized them as the nurse held Dad’s head still. His story gave me nightmares.
    I was 32 when I finally had my tonsils out, and they were so bad that I was in the hospital 3 days and hat 18 stitches in the back of my throat. But at least I was knocked out for the procedure!

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    • Yes you have to be grateful that times have changed. They used to take them out on the kitchen table. I had a friend who travelled to Russia and had to be taken of the train due to tonsillitis and put in a Russian hospital where he couldn’t understand a word. His travelling companions had to move on to fit in with their travel permits. One day my friend was just grabbed from behind, pinned by a burly Russian and watched as another came at him with a knife and then the spurt of blood. He said he always stood with his back to the wall from that point but he never suffered tonsilitis again so we assume he had his tonsils removed a la your Dad did.

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      • Sherri says:

        Oh my goodness Irene, what a story! That sounds horrendous! As you say, one can only assume that your friend’s tonsils were removed but I don’t blame him for making sure to stand with his back against a wall from that time onwards. What a thing to go through…

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      • Sherri says:

        Yes, that makes it ten times worse, very frightening. I imagine your friend thought that was it, end of…so glad he made it through that ordeal, putting it mildly…!

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    • Sherri says:

      It’s amazing isn’t it Marylin what these short ‘bites’ of memoir trigger! I’m flabbergasted to read your dad’s story. A dentist taking out his tonsils? Unbelievable. I don’t even want to think about that…how horrible for your dad as a little boy, can’t even imagine…
      You were about the same age as my dad when he had his tonsils out! I remember him sunning himself in the garden to recuperate while having time off work which he seemed to enjoy very much!
      I know that these ops are more unpleasant as adults and 18 stitches sounds like an awful lot. As you say, good job you weren’t sitting in a dentist’s chair! I had my adenoids out at the same time and what I didn’t mention in this memoir is that when I woke up the first thing I saw was my blood-red pillow. That really scared me, I thought I had had a bad nosebleed. Ahh…memories eh?

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  11. Being in hospital was a totally different thing in those days. You were lucky your parents were allowed to visit. They went through a period where they felt it upset the child too much to say goodbye so parents were banned.

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    • Sherri says:

      Things have certainly changed Irene. Interesting what you say about the parents visiting. My parents couldn’t come for a few nights as one of the girls on my ward starting crying every time hers left and it upset the rest of us, so we had to go without. I remember not liking that girl very much for causing all that trouble. When they came back and with my grandparents, and with a small present, I was so happy but that girl never stopped crying…

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      • Thank heavens for change. How hard for you and the poor little girl who constantly cried. If only her parents could have stayed with her constantly there probably wouldn’t have been a problem.

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        • Sherri says:

          Yes, things were done by the book then and Matron ruled the roost! My dear Granny was a nurse before she left to get married in the early 1930’s and she told me some stories that made my hair stand up on end. So very different today thank goodness as you say 🙂

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  12. Ew. Tonsils here meant ice cream, popcicles. That sort of thing. Eggs. Nah. No wonder you still want to…you know. I still have mine but my daughter was six when she had hers removed. I even slept in her hospital bed with her the first night. Easier on the nurses, I’m sure but certainly easier on ME as well, and my baby. 🙂

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  13. thirdhandart says:

    What a horrible experience Sherri! I had my tonsils removed at about the same age. I remember waking up in a crib-like hospital bed with crisp, white sheets (except for one little spot of bloody drool that had escaped from my mouth). Thank goodness the nurses didn’t make me eat eggs!

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    • Sherri says:

      I remember the crisp, white bed too Theresa, and waking up to my nice, white pillow covered in blood (I had my adenoids out too) and that really scared me! Old memories are a powerful thing aren’t they? I’m glad you didn’t have eggs too 😉

      Like

  14. Denise says:

    When I was six I went to hospital too! It was for an unexplained pain in my neck/shoulder. Looking back, I think it was a nervous/hysterical thing that was transmitted through my mother’s extreme anxiety about life. I was in hospital for a few months (wouldn’t happen these days – bed blocking!)

    Was it lonely for you?

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    • Sherri says:

      What is it about the age of six? I remember reading A A Milne’s ‘Now We Are Six’ and even as a child trying to understand what that really meant!
      Goodness Denise, what a long time to be in hospital and for no apparent reason. How a mother’s anxiety can be transmitted onto their child. Now that is a powerful subject.
      It was very lonely, yes, although I wasn’t too bad until one of the other girls in the ward started crying when her parents had to leave after evening visiting hours and one by one we all started. It was definitely a hysterical reaction which spread like wildflower and it meant that I couldn’t see as much of my family. I do remember the crushing loneliness, two weeks is a long time for a child, but for you, months, that must have been awful for you and I’m so sorry Denise…

      Like

  15. simplyilka says:

    Oh yes, childhood hospital stays were big events. It really changed now! I was allowed to sleep with my daughter in her room when she was in hospital. It totally calmed her down. But Mum didn’t get much sleep with all the strange noises and peeping going on 😉

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    • Sherri says:

      I can well imagine Ilka, but thank goodness you were able to be with your daughter. I wish my mum could have been with me but as you say, things have changed so much, and thank goodness 🙂

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  16. You made that memory so vivid Sherri, I could see you walking around the ward in your little hospital smock! I went in for my tonsils when I was little too and I remember being told off by the nurse for crying in the middle of the night! But my food experience was much better – we had ice cream – good for soothing the throat 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      It’s a good job you don’t remember much about it Andrea, except for the most important thing – the ice cream! I’m sure I must have had some too but I have absolutely no memory of it…only those yukky scrambled eggs 😦
      Seems we both got told off by a nurse…how different to the way things are today 🙂

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  17. Food remains connected to our life’s experiences, for sure. It makes sense that scrambled eggs bring you back to an operation that is no fun for a young child. Until not so long ago I hated rice, which was served sticky and too cold at my middle school cafeteria. It took American Chinese restaurants to change that. See you soon, Sherri.

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    • Sherri says:

      So true Evelyne, food associations are very powerful. I can just imagine your rice experience but glad that you were able to overcome your disgust of it. I Nothing like good American Chinese food 🙂
      I will eat just about everything but one thing I can’t bear is coconut. I also blame it on school lunches when we were given a revolting dessert – pink pudding, jam and dessicated coconut sprinkled on top! Makes me feel ill just thinking about it!
      I’ll be over to you now 🙂

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  18. bulldog says:

    Having just been through the hospital food thing… the one and only breakfast I managed to get between starvation for anesthetizing was a fried egg on a flap jack… the flap jack was like rubber and the fried egg looked more than suspicious… I’m afraid from now one both will be avoided for a while…

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    • Sherri says:

      Hi Bulldog! I was really concerned about you. I don’t blame you…what is it about eggs when in hospital? Maybe they should give up using them…

      Like

  19. Pingback: Childhood Illness – Bite Size Compilation | Lisa Reiter - Sharing the Story

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