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Thankful for five small wonders

November 27, 2011
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer , The Herald-Star

As I get ready to start this column, it is the day before Thanksgiving. But my column will be appearing on Sunday, several days after the event.

So I am sitting at my computer pondering the things I have to be thankful for this year.

I decided that foremost are five small wonders who started appearing in 1994 ... the grandchildren.

Lamont and I are especially thankful this year because an accident that could have been devastating was greatly scaled down regarding one grandchild.

Our oldest granddaughter, Amber, 17, who is always wearing a smile and is a bundle of energy, blacked out at Worthington Christian High School and fell backwards, hitting her head. When we received the call from Jay, she could barely hold her eyes open, had slurred speech, a terrible headache and a weakness in her left side.

Every known test and procedure were given at the Columbus Children's Hospital but nothing resembling a concussion, stroke, aneurysm or neurological problem existed. That was quite a relief to everyone, and all symptoms except for the weakness on her left side disappeared within two days.

We were at Jay's awaiting Amber's arrival home from the hospital when she walked in with her usual big smile but dragging her left leg somewhat. Physical therapy, her great attitude and unfailing faith will take care of that, but it was a frightening two days. We are thankful she is on the mend now.

There are four other blessings in our lives, and I can't call some of them little. Three of our five grandchildren are almost as tall or taller than I am. Amber and her sister, Jessie, 15, both tower over me, and Matthew, 12, keeps measuring and threatening to reach my height in a few months.

Darin's children, Jackson, 7, and Maggie, 4, have some years to go before they reach 5 feet in height. Jackson is sporting a red and blue cast, decorated with glow-in- the dark stars. This is the result of a wrestling move that didn't go well. The cast goes up over his elbow, and he wears a braided sling to keep it elevated - something I needed when I broke my wrist.

Then there is Maggie. What can I say about Maggie? The term whirling-dervish comes to mind. She comes up with some of the cutest sayings, is always one jump ahead of you and is always on the move.

A chance remark made me recall something I am thankful for regarding my life, too.

A comment that was not meant to be unkind but only kidding took me back to when I was 10 years old. It was in regards to the way I walk.

I am thankful that I am even able to walk, as I was a victim of polio at that early age. This was in the fifth grade at the end of Christmas vacation. I hadn't been feeling well the entire time off from school, and on the day to return from vacation, I hurt so much I could hardly get out of bed.

Dr. Jerry Thompson was called to our home. Yes, doctors made house calls then. He said I needed to go to the hospital immediately.

I recall my dad coming home from work to drive me to the Ohio Valley General Hospital in Wheeling. I was lying down in the back seat when we drove past an area where school children gather during the lunch period. I was thinking I would like to be there rather than where I was going.

I was diagnosed with polio, called infantile paralysis at that time. It was the same thing that President Franklin Roosevelt had, and it left him a semi invalid. I knew that much from history, therefore my parents did not tell me my diagnosis until later.

I was put in isolation, where only my parents could visit. Our family home had a quarantine sign on the door, so my brothers could not go to school for a time. I don't know how my dad was able to work at the Hanna Coal Co. office in St. Clairsville but then he came down to see me each evening after work. Parents were not allowed to stay at the hospital and besides, my mom had younger children at home.

When I think of that time I remember getting a spinal tap; having two blood transfusions, thinking how black and yucky the blood in the jar suspend over my arm looked; and hot packs applied to my legs several times a day.

The nurse would come into my room pushing a steaming container. She would lift out a khaki-colored woolen fabric square and apply it the calf of my leg. Then a sheet of plastic was wrapped around it and taped down.

To this day, if anything I wear made from wool gets wet, I recall that smell, and it takes me back to the hospital.

After about 10 days, I was transferred to a private room in the children's ward and laid practically flat all that time. A nurse who did not know this raised my bed to a seated position. Within two minutes, I was terribly dizzy and sick at my stomach.

My body needed to become acclimated to a vertical position and that took being raised in stages. I never heard anyone else say that it happened to them until I read "90 Minutes in Heaven."

The main character, who had been in a horrific car accident and laid flat for a long time, mentioned this happening to him.

I went into the hospital on Jan. 2 and arrived home on Feb. 22, George Washington's birthday. I remember kids being home from school that day.

I was told that I wasn't allowed to get out of bed. It seems that while in the hospital, I also contracted rheumatic fever, and they believed any exertion would cause serious heart problems.

There were no physical therapy sessions. A nurse came to our home once and showed my mom movements that needed to be done with my legs. That was all.

My mother had three children younger than me and another on the way. She did the best she could and my aunt, Catherine McHugh, would come over and work with me, too.

Aunt Catherine was the first one to urge me to stand, with help, and remain there for a few moments. I had been told that I would have to learn to walk all over again but my naive mind thought I could get up and start walking. I learned the hard way that was not going to happen.

When everyone was in the dining room eating breakfast one morning, I thought I would surprise them by strolling in to join them. I was probably on my feet about five seconds when my legs buckled, and I came crashing down. That was a bleak moment for me when I realized that I could not walk.

With aid under both arms, I started taking a few faltering steps. When I mentioned this to someone, they said I should have learned to crawl first to strengthen my legs, just as babies do. That didn't happen, and I would have been very embarrassed to do so.

The porch sweeping the length of our house had a railing that I used to get up, hold on to and walk. I remember a day when the bus brought everyone from our neighborhood home.

I stood up and waved and can remember so well that everyone in the bus waved back.

I had a steadfast friend during that time, and she is still my very best friend, Florence Burkett Turnbull, who lived up the street.

Her older brother, Dan, carried me to Beverly Francisco Balash's birthday party, and he carried me over to Florence's several times.

When I learned to walk again in June, it was quite ungainly. One day while I was outside where others in our neighborhood were gathered, they started making fun of me. Florence promised each and everyone a sound beating if they ever did it again.

I attended fifth grade for only three months, with Miss Cimino - later her name changed to Whittaker - coming to our home once a week to give me my lessons.

I was afraid I would be held back to the fifth grade and leave all my friends. But to my relief I was passed to the sixth grade.

The first day back is one I will remember forever. Everyone wanted to help me up the steps and carry my books.

I will be forever thankful for my parents who had to care for an invalid for six months, for all the friends and prayers I received and for having a friend like Florence to keep showing me that I was just like everyone else.

In a way, I am glad for that comment about my walking recently that started me on this sentimental journey.

Last, but never least, I am thankful I have a husband who attends dinners, meetings and cookbook contests with me and never grumbles much. He has missed many Browns games to go with me and never says a word.

Then there are my boys who have turned into wonderful men. I can't even call them young men any more. Like me, they have packed on a few years.

Like Roger Wright Jr. always tells me when I walk through the Herald-Star office area where he and Connie Owens work, "It's all good."

He's right. I am thankful for all that was good and all that turned out to be good in the end.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaron

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