Wednesday afternoon, Jane drove us to meet Hermine Tate, a lovely lady of 82 who wrote her autobiography More than One Way to Skin a Cat in 1989. An incredible lady! She greeted us on an electric scooter and told us that she had been out all morning but had come back and slept for an hour to be ready to meet with us. She caught polio in 1910 when she was five and was left with one paralysed leg. School work was fitted round operations. She graduated and decided on a medical career. Nursing was out of the question, so she went to see Dr. Mayo at New Orleans who advised her to register for pre-med. She met Dr. Couret, the Senior Pathologist at the Charity Hospital, who suggested she come and work with them for an hour a week to begin with and progress to two hours when she would be put on the payroll, but to remember that her grades came first...
"Dr. Couret, Dr. Gondolph and Dr. Houser were the three pathologists, and it was here that the doctors who were taking residency in Pathology spent one year rotating through the various departments of this laboratory. During the summer of my third year of college work, Dr. Couret wanted me to take the three month course given by Dr. Elizabeth Bass at Tulane Medical School, which was located on Tulane Avenue just about three blocks from Charity. He explained to me this study would require my undivided attention all day for the full three months, which meant no working at Charity for three months and no vacation. This course proved most interesting. We actually did many phases of laboratory work along with getting to know the reason why. The hardest part of that entire summer was climbing three flights of stairs. There were no elevators, except one which was manually pulled with ropes and used to carry stiffs from the morgue to the laboratory for the medical students to work on. One morning when I was passing by during the time the orderly was loading, he asked if I would like to ride with the stiffs. My answer was yes. Of course, he had to stand at the bottom of the shaft to pull the ropes, then someone else was on the third floor to unload the stiffs and me (and they never got us mixed up)!!"
She then decided to become a medical technician. Her story is one of courage where she aimed and succeeded high, visiting many places in the world. This book is not only an extemely interesting story of her medical career but has been written with much humour. She has published it herself and copies can be obtained by writing to Hermine Tate, 142 Clark Court, Lafayette, Louisiana 70503. However, it was interesting to note that she was surprised that we were deteriorating at such an early age and that we had had to give up work. Interestingly, because of her leg paralysis her house had been built to suit her, with ramps and wide doors and cupboards at the right height. Whereas we recovered to 'looking normal' and are now having to adapt unexpectedly and alter our houses. It is also interesting to note the difference in recovery from polio caught in 1910 and that caught in the 50's.
Thursday morning CarolAnn, Millie and I left for New Orleans. Sparkie had arranged for someone from the Rehab Hospital to come in and assess Jane and had decided to stay with her. We drove back along the swamp road. What a feat of engineering! Two separate roads built on stilts across miles of swamp. Millie mentioned the story from 'Giggles goes to Texas', CarolAnn's trip in December, about seeing an alligator in the river and after walking down to the water finding out that it was only a old green car seat. We laughed about this. I was looking into the distance, miles away in thought, when Millie said 'Oh there is an albino aligator' and, oh dear, I turned round, looked and said "Where?". I then realised... they laughed and so did I! I could not believe I had fallen for that.
We arrived in New Orleans driving through the French Quarter down to the Mississippi and parked right near the 'Natchez', the Mississippi Paddlesteamer. We were disappointed that it was so near to leaving that we could not join this trip and the next was not for another three hours which we did not have. So instead we went on a horse and buggy ride through the French Quarter. Driven by a very large local gentleman who talked the whole way round. I could not understand much of what he said and had to laugh when the others said the same as we got off. The one phrase I did make out was the 'House of the Rising Sun', the first house of ill repute. We then walked the Market and saw many stalls with local produce and locally made items; the atmosphere was great but the heat unbelievable - I think it was 93 that day. We stopped in the Cafe du Monde and had a drink and beignets - which are a local doughnut delicacy dredged with icing sugar - and listened to the Jazz which was incredible. Walking slowly back to the car along the river we soaked up the atmosphere. Three lovely hours, something I will always remember. We then drove to the outskirts of New Orleans and met PeggySue and talked PPS for over an hour. It was lovely to meet her and once again we heard the familiar story. How she had had polio, recovered well, worked, married and brought up a family, and now was having a struggle coping, fatigue, weakness, pain, and the memory problems we all seem to have, just like our elderly relatives but 25/35 years earlier. We then drove on to Baton Rouge, stopped and visited with Judd, an internet friend of Jane, CarolAnn and Millies, and then drove back to Lafayette. Jane and Sparkie told us about the Rehab visit and then we talked about our day and once again much fun was had at my expense! The English and American languages might sound the same to others, but there are so many differences in words and phrases, and many mean something totally different. I look forward to getting my own back when Sparkie and Denise visit me next year.
Next morning, Sparkie and I were up at 06.00 and got ready to go to Channel 10 TV. We arrived at the studio and let ourselves in the side door. We were told to go through the door that said 'On Air', where we were waved to a settee, asked to fill out some forms and offered coffee and doughnuts. We watched the program going ahead with the camera moving from one room to the other. The news and weather went out, and then were told "just a few minutes girls." Suddenly we were invited to the settee (sofa, chesterfield, couch), had microphones attached and instructed to "say your name and where you are from." The interviewer arrived and we were on. Where was the make-up? The run through? Luckily Sparkie had visited them the day before and given them some information and we had been given an idea of the questions they were going to ask. It seemed like only a moment before it was over and we left. We got back to Jane's and played the video and were fairly happy with what we did but had learned that it would be better to have set questions and answers prepared in advance to ensure that we get the whole pps awareness message across.
Eddie Bee and his wife Carol arrived from Houston in the early evening. Judd came over and we had a lovely meal. Millie made a lovely stuffed bread which we ate with relish and chatted about PPS, earlier visits CarolAnn and Millie had made, the trip, and much much more. Many photos were looked at and, eventually exhausted by laughter, we went to sleep in the early hours.
Next morning began leisurely, chatting some more and packing our things ready to move on. 'All aboard'... but the van would not start, so Eddie Bee gave us a jump start and off we set. Unfortunately the air conditioning had failed a couple of days earlier and we had to drive with the windows open - at 93 it was hot. We drove to Pineville in Louisiana, met with Linda Morrow and her son Tony in the Mall, and spent a pleasant hour in an air-conditioned restaurant chatting about PPS.
Driving into the night, it gradually got cooler. We arrived in Birmingham, Alabama and stopped with Eric and Jen, CarolAnn's son and daughter in law, in a lovely apartment in a fenced-in complex with enormous trees to look onto from the balcony. They have a lovely Jack Russell who loved lotion and licked Sparkies legs clean as soon as she applied it.
We set off again for Loudon in Tennessee and arrived as planned at 5 p.m. in time to have a wash and get ready for a BBQ to celebrate Millie's birthday. She decided to be 46. We went over to Jim and Linnea's (firstname.lastname@example.org - the special needs teacher and journalist friends of Mac's) for the cook out. Mac had marinated some chicken, made a lovely pasta dish, beans and rice and had taken that across earlier. We talked into the night round a lovely camp fire, eating wonderful food and hoping that nothing making a noise in the trees landed on the plate. Their eight cats made a great fuss of us, hoping for some chicken. Linnea then brought out the 'Happy Tennessee Birthday Millie' cake Mac had got for Millie and we sang - very badly if I remember rightly - Happy Birthday. Back to Mac's and after a drink or two and much chatting and laughing we settled down for the night, Mac being relegated to the settee in his own house which was very noble of him.
Next day we caught up with email and some washing, and Sparkie and I went to meet Marianne. CarolAnn was not feeling very well. She had had a nasty spasm in her arm and was still shaking, so Millie being the lovely homely 'Mum" that she is stayed with her. Marianne was pleased to meet us and told Sparkie her story of her polio, years in another nursing home and then her respiratory failure which put her into hospital for two weeks with a tracheostomy. Sparkie says that my visit to see Marianne was a highlight of my trip.
She is a wonderful, caring lady whose life has so many twists and turns. Her smile is so warm, and her eyes take on the glimmer of a warm sunrise. She just wants you to feel so comfortable around her. I certainly did. We shared our Polio history and at times I found that my story didn't even begin to compare with the challenges she has endured in her life, and yet her smile kept appearing. To have a tracheostomy and all that that entails must be difficult to cope with, wondering all the time what will happen next. How does the human spirit continue to rebirth itself under such conditions? I don't know, but Marriann was a great inspiration for anyone who comes into her world. She was simply a delightful woman. She promised to write more of her story for us to read - about how she feels about having a tracheostomy. I look forward to reading it.
Mac picked us up again, we drove back, loaded the van once again and yes, the battery failed again and after another jump start we set off for Chicago. The scenery was lovely, North Tennessee and South Kentucky have some wonderful wooded hills and valleys. We stopped for fuel, drinks and snacks and drove on through Cinncinati at night. All the buildings were lit up. It was a wonderful sight. We were not far short of Indianapolis after driving for six hours, when we realised that at this rate we would arrive in Chicago at 03.00! Not a clever idea so we stayed in a motel for the night and as usual Sparkie did her stuff and got us a very cheap rate and a free breakfast. It was a shame the jaccuzzi bath did not work but we had a shower, relaxed and watched TV and next morning awoke to rain. We had a lovely breakfast but even if I had not been vegetarian I could not imagine eating steak and eggs for breakfast like Sparkie did. We drove on in the rain and arrived in Chicago at lunchtime and to better weather. The drive along Lake Michigan was beautiful, and the skyscrapers were huge, the Sears Tower being the tallest in the world. We booked into the City Suites Hotel in Downtown Chicago and unpacked. CarolAnn and Millie decided to stay and wait in to hear from others that were coming to meet up with us. Sparkie got ready for a business meeting and I ventured out shopping. I spent about three hours looking through three department stores, resting on any chair I passed and thoroughly enjoyed myself spending some more dollars. I returned thoroughly exhausted and spent the evening watching TV. Circumstances had changed for many folks whilst we were on our trip and we heard that they could not make it. Denise (MealyD@aol.com) from Tipp City in Ohio we heard was arriving at 12.00 the next day.
Next morning we decided to go out shopping for a couple of hours till Denise arrived. When Sparkie and I arrived back in the hotel room we discovered CarolAnn and Millie had found the van broken into. CarolAnn's Pentax Camera and CD player which she had left between the front seats had been stolen. This upset CarolAnn - as one would expect - and she decided to return to Canada as soon as the window was fixed - the hotel insurance paying for it. Denise arrived and offered to take me back to Ohio with her so that I could see some of Chicago and also spend the weekend of the Mum (chrysanthymum) Festival with her and her family. We said our goodbye's to CarolAnn, Millie and Sparkie and then Denise and I caught the train to the Sears Building. My first skyscraper, a quarter of a mile high, and we paid to go up. While watching the film presentation I really wondered if I was being sensible as I don't like heights, but once in the lift (elevator) there was no sensation of moving, no numbers to see how many floors we were going up, and was surprised when the doors opened. I expected to have to go up in another lift but we were at the top. The view was incredible but not frighteneing as I had expected and we took photos from all sides. Everything on the ground looked tiny, and we could see for ten miles that day. It was a sight I wont forget in a hurry! We came back down and Sparkie asked a passing policeman where was a good place to eat so we ended up at Berghoffs, an old German restaurant, and had a lovely meal. We then walked slowly down to Lake Michigan soaking up the atmosphere and talked with a young man sitting on a wall, whom we had seen earlier that day. He asked "If you are not related how do you know one another?" We told him about pps and the internet and he said "I have a friend in Texas who has had polio and who is having problems", so we gave him our Website addresses. Promoting pps whereever we go it seems, and in the most unlikely ways sometimes. We then walked on to the shores of Lake Michigan and just sat and soaked up the atmosphere, watching the scantily clad runners and skaters passing by.
We decided to get a cab back to the hotel as we had walked a long way and were very tired. While waiting for a cab Denise stepped back into the only patch of mud in all Chicago! Her feet sank about five inches, and of course all we could do after pulling her out was laugh, legs crossed in a huddle. Passing motorists must have wondered what we were doing. We composed ourselves by the time the taxi arrived and had a lovely journey back to the hotel. Our driver was from Nigeria originally and had just passed his Masters in Computers and was interesting to talk to. He hoped to be able to get a better job now he was more qualfied.
After a much needed rest and shower we went out to a nearby Mexican Bar and Restaurant and had an enjoyable evening putting the world to rights and watching it go by.
Next day, Thursday, we said our Goodbyes to Sparkie. Denise and I drove back to Tipp City in Ohio, stopping at a Cracker Barrell for lunch, spending time looking through the craft shop that is part of this, and having a lovely meal during which I ate my first grits - maybe my only grits. The biscuits (scones) were lovely as was the scrambled egg, the cinnamon/caramel apples were delicious as was the jam, but I had not had it all served at once before on one plate. We drove on and arrived in Tipp City which was decorated for the Mum Festival - even the roads and pavements have Mums stencilled on them. We had a much needed rest, ate a lovely meal, and then Judy and Joe arrived. They are from the local PPS group in Dayton (Denise had not known they existed) and we chatted about PPS and about the support their group gives to the local polio survivors. Joe gave me a lovely poem he has written which I will put in the next newsletter. They all have the same PPS Doctor in Cincinnati, Dr. Kathryn Jurell. Denise has had a new lightweight brace for two months now to wear for 90% of the time. She walks much better now and has less pain when wearing it and Sparkie and I have begun to realise that this is one route we need to go down.
Friday, we walked round the corner and looked into about four antique shops which I really enjoyed. Then lunch in a lovely cafe and I learnt that the name of the city used to be Tippercanoe and they want to return to using the old name instead of Tipp City (it came from the saying Tippercanoe and Tyler too). We came back for a rest until the evening and then went out looking at the cars that had come in for the festival, pink cadillacs, and many others, bonnets open and engines spotless. There must have been over a hundred or more.
Saturday we got up bright and early ready for the Mum Festival parade. Denise's son Bryan is playing saxaphone in the school band and then back to the beginning to skate with another group. The parade was enormous! The streets were lined with chairs, houses were decorated, food and drink laid on. All the cars from last night were in the parade and about seven school bands. Many many groups including the Shriners who Denise said helped pay for her hospital stay when she had polio. We were very impressed by the number of Shriners in the parade and Denise thought she should contact them about PPS. Then we had a cook-out at a neighbours house and chatted about England, ate wonderful food and had the odd drink, or two or three... and of course PPS came up in conversation and we were all surprised to find that a friend of Denise family, Scott Brownless, had had polio as well. He was having problems and none of the others knew he had had polio. About four hours later we strolled around the craft and food stalls nearby and I ate my first jalapeno poppers and funnel cake. We came back and crashed... and had just one more bottle of beer.
Next day a neighbour picked us up at 0800 and we went to a nearby Flea Market (Car Boot Sale in England). We wandered round very slowly and I found a few purchases to bring back for my glass collection. Next stop was at Hardees for breakfast and I had the most fantastic biscuit (scone with crisp topping) with omlette and melted cheese in it. We got back, rested and then went shopping in Huber Heights. Later on we went to a relatives for a lovely meal and a dip in the hot tub. The wind had got up and was howling around us, but that did not matter. Luckily though we got out about two minutes before it poured with rain. Oh, I would love a hot tub back in England!
On Monday Denise took me to Dayton where I caught the Greyhound Bus back to Knoxville, chatting on the way to a lovely chap called Jody who was unable to work now because of a back injury and was travelling to Florida. The journey to Knoxville was seven hours all told but lovely scenery and wonderful weather. I arrived at 6 pm to be met by Mac and we drove through the old part of Knoxville, past the University, and on to Loudon. A lovely meal, and a drink or two later, we listened to the copy of England Rose that I had managed to get in Chicago and I had an early night. Slept ten hours and now catching up with email and finishing this account of my trip so far.
to be continued...
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