I don’t recall just what it was on that March day 62 years ago that caused me to trudge up the campus hill and present myself at the college infirmary.
But I remember very well what the nurse told me when I got there.
“It’s measles,” she said. “Get out of your clothes and put on this gown.”
“No way!” I told her.
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It was the first day of spring break.
“I’ve got a ticket home for tomorrow. The bus leaves at 10 in the morning.”
“You’re not going anyplace,” she said.
And she was right. That’s where I spent my two-week vacation from classes.
No visitors were permitted.
But the nurse arranged for some reading material to be sent up from the college library. One offering the librarian found in the rich collection was a copy of the 1952 issue of Life magazine containing the first publication of Ernest Hemingway’s short novel “The Old Man and the Sea” — the masterpiece that preceded his receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Other treasures followed: Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage,” William Styron’s “The Long March” and Norman Mailer’s “The Naked and the Dead.”
So my sequestration with the measles was not altogether wasted.
And in most other ways I’ve been lucky with my health. In my early years, though Jonas Salk’s vaccine had not yet been developed, I escaped the curse of polio.
The immunity resulting from the event in college spares me any concern about the current measles epidemic.
Though I’m told I had the mumps, I don’t remember them.
Several dear friends, seniors like myself, have spoken of the prolonged misery they endured when the herpes zoster virus, a relic from a long-ago case of chickenpox, after lurking silently for many years in their system, suddenly awakened and caused an agonizing case of shingles.
Hearing those stories, my wife and I made a beeline to the nearest place for a vaccination.
I have no quarrel with those who, for religious or other reasons, make a different choice. Shingles is not contagious, and therefore it poses no threat to others.
But while I can testify that a single needle prick in the arm is virtually painless, the reports I’ve heard from its victims suggest that shingles can be a powerful mind-changer about preventive injections.
For more of C.W. Gusewelle, go to gusewelle.kansascity.com.