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The Day Before Yesterday: 72 - Whooping Cough

Gladys Schofield tells of worrying days in the life of her new-born son, Rodney.

To read earlier episodes of Gladys's story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_day_before_yesterday/

My baby was thriving and I was able to feed him also. I think the resting is very important for a young mother and am surprised how things have changed, with some now only having one night in hospital, before going home to start the routine of caring for a new baby and maybe a family also. It takes days for a woman's body to settle down into shape again, so they gain nothing, as they get problems in later life that may not have occurred if they had had a little more chance to rest.

I got another visitor when Rodney was two weeks old. One of the neighbours from our last home, brought her two year old son with her to see the new baby. I am not happy letting children kiss new babies but as this lady said, "Come John, kiss the little baby", there was not much I could do without causing offence. A week later I received a letter stating, "John had caught Whooping Cough and she hoped the baby was well.''

He was, at that time and growing fast. At four weeks he was already ten pounds and no trouble at all. Then he seemed to get a cold and as Alan was fine I couldn't understand where he had picked it up but I soon knew because at five weeks he was worse and was whooping. The doctor called and confirmed my suspicions and said "He is too young for medication.'' Had he been five months instead of five weeks, there was a pill I could have given him.

That old country doctor called every morning at eight thirty to my baby. He was so ill he couldn't keep his feeds down. I had to lift him up every time he coughed or he would choke. I watched his round little body change as the weight fell off him. The doctor told me to make a little jacket for him out of cotton wool. I had to smear it all over with a paste called Antiphlagistine. I had never heard of it before, or since. I was told to let the jacket slowly wear away (not remove it), the paste removed the fluid that was on his chest. I had not to bath him completely, just 'top and tail' as they say and rub olive oil into his skin but the worry was so much I lost my milk. The doctor told me to give him, part under milk and part top milk, sweetened with a substance called 'sugar of milk'.

My husband was not allowed compassionate leave for the baby, had I been ill, maybe but not the baby. This was a very serious time and leave could be given or taken away depending on how things were going but I had one constant companion who would come every evening after her husband was home and her kiddies in bed. She would knock "It's only me Love,'' she would say, "I've come to sit with you a while.'' She did this each evening and never went back home until about two or three am for a little sleep.

She kept me going, when I think I would have despaired as I wasn't very strong yet, after bringing this precious little bundle into the world and now I could loose him.

What a little fighter he was, I had named him rightly after that battleship (Battling Rod).
He seemed to settle a little after about two am and it was then Ethel would say, "You try to get a bit of rest Love and I will do the same." And so it went on day after day.

The doctor was always my first visitor in the morning and I said this day, "You didn't expect him to last so long, did you Doctor?" He didn't answer me but instead said, "Have you got a little brandy?" "Well, no" I replied, "but I can get some.'' He told me to boil and cool some water, sweeten a little and add one teaspoon of brandy. This was bought and administered with no time lost. I spooned a tiny drop of this liquid into his mouth and found he was swallowing it and I could swear he was smacking his lips for more. It seemed to ease his coughing for a while and he managed to keep a little feed down. He couldn't drink much, he exhausted easily but he fell asleep over my shoulder. It was the first relaxed sleep he had had for days. After a while I placed him in his pram, on the side the doctor had shown me was easiest, to expel his wind, as his little tummy had been full of this lately and very little else.

That was the turning point, from that moment he steadily got stronger. He would give me a cheeky grin, his whole face would light up each time I picked him up and I've never been without a drop of brandy in the house since that day, for emergency of course. Rod turned out to be the cheeky, witty one of the family and never ailed anything bad again.

The doctor answered my question at last one day by saying "He's a little miracle. I never expected him to pull through.''

He called occasionally as he passed our door and saw Cliff had managed to get a spot of leave, when Rod was about three months. After seeing our son was making steady progress, he turned to Cliff and said, "Is there anyway you can take this girl back with you, she badly needs a holiday," and that gave me the chance to have two lovely weeks in Cambridge, a beautiful part of the country.

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