Coming Home (National Tuberculosis Assn, 1950)

Coming Home (National Tuberculosis Assn, 1950)


[Music] [Jack hums and sings] [Steve:] Get a load of the crooner. [Mechanic:] I’ve been getting it all morning. I had to turn on the air compression to tune him off. [Jack:] You guys just don’t appreciate good music. [Steve:] You feel pretty good today, don’t you, Jack. [Jack:] On top of the world. [Steve:] Darned if I can figure why a guy should feel so happy getting his hands back in the grease. [Jack:] You might figure different if somebody told you you couldn’t get your hands greasy, Steve. Maybe you’ll think it’s funny, but lots of times, when I was lying in bed looking at the ceiling, I used to dream up repair jobs, and then go through them step-by-step. Now that I’ve got my hands on some real engines again, I’m not kicking. [Mechanic:] What was it like there, Jack, in the hospital? [Jack:] It was no picnic. [Mechanic:] I bet, but I mean–what, what, what is it like to have TB? What happens, and how do you know when you have it? [Jack:] Trouble is, you generally don’t know. I didn’t. [Music] I felt tired all the time. Played out. I didn’t cough. You can have TB without coughing. And I was taking some pills I’d heard about. I figured I’d snap out of it. I always had before. I didn’t think too much of it. [Music] Then I would sweat at night. Used to wake up ringing wet. [Music] Helen worried about it. You know how women are. She wanted me to go to the doctor. I told her you don’t get me to any doctor unless I’m really sick. I guess I never would have found out in time, if it hadn’t been for that community x-ray program. You know, when that trailer came around, and a lot of us had those chest pictures made. The next thing I knew, Doc Whipple called up. That’s our family doctor. He said, Jack, can you stop by the office soon? I want to talk to you. I said okay. I still didn’t tumble. Thought maybe he wanted to talk to me about the kids or something. When I did go, he let me have it easy. It seems the x-ray fellows had sent him the report on me because I’d given his name as my doctor. He said he didn’t like the looks of it, and he wanted a bigger picture made. So, I went and got a big picture, and Doc Whipple went over it with a specialist. [Music] That did it. That and some other tests they made. I had TB, and it was well underway. He said that I’d have to go to a hospital to get well. I told him, Doc, I can’t. I can’t stop working. What will happen to Helen and the kids? That’s the first thing you worry about…the money. But the doctor had an answer: what will happen to them if you don’t get well? Of course, he was right, but it’s hard to see your way clear at first. I hated to go home that day. We had a little put by, savings bonds, but not enough to last a year. The doctor thought it might take about that long. I figured that we’d lose the house that Helen had worked so hard over, and I was worried for the youngsters. I’d always planned for them to get more schooling than I did. I didn’t know what to do. But Helen did. She said I was going to the hospital right away. She’s a great hand at budgeting, that girl. She showed me that with the savings bonds and taking some loans on the insurance, we could manage somehow, and she said she wasn’t too proud to ask for help from the agencies Doc Whipple had mentioned. A few days later, I went to the hospital right over at Churchill. A lot of people still think you have to go the mountains or the desert. That’s debunked. Climate isn’t the important thing. The reason for going to a tuberculosis hospital instead of staying home, is that the whole set up is geared for one thing–treating tuberculosis. They have all the equipment there, and they know what they’re doing. [Music] I won’t pretend that I liked it there. Nobody likes being in the hospital, but I’m sure glad I went. For one thing, I wasn’t spreading my own TB germs to my family or friends. There was the best of care and the right kind of food. [Music] And rest. Rest, rest. That’s the main thing in beating tuberculosis, rest. [Music] The doctor told me why that is. You get to know a lot about TB when you’re in the hospital. You see, almost everybody has healthy lungs to begin with. You have to get TB germs from somebody else. Maybe from them coughing or sneezing or spitting. When you breathe in those germs, they may get a foothold in the lungs, just like seeds taking root. But the body fights back by growing a kind of covering around them so they can’t spread. They call this a tubercle, and it’s like a scar that holds the germs in so they can’t do any harm. Usually, you don’t know that this is happening. Lots of people have tubercles, and they get along all right for years, but then maybe the tubercle breaks down, or more likely, you breathe in some more germs again. They may spread faster than the body can stop them. Then you’re in real trouble. The TB gets into the air pockets of the lung and destroys them, makes holes. In the long run, this can kill you. The reason you need so much rest in bed is that the lung doesn’t have to move much, and that makes it easier for the body to fight off the germs. I asked the doctor about operations. They have different ones they can use for different cases. No two cases of TB are just alike. For me, he planned a pneumothorax. This is one way of giving an infected lung a rest. They put a hollow needle through the chest wall and let sterile air into it. This collapses the lung. Then it doesn’t have to work to breathe, so the healing begins. The other lung does all the breathing you need. Of course, in time, the air put in around the lung is absorbed, but they can easily keep it collapsed with more air. I had a refill every so often. What surprised me was that it didn’t cause any pain, though at times it was uncomfortable. They have drugs now, too, that help a lot in some cases. I was lucky enough to respond well to one of the new drugs, and I got regular shots of it. [Music] There’s another angle to this business of licking TB. Maybe the hardest one: your state of mind. I used to get depressed sometimes. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. It’s easy to say “rest and don’t worry,” but you do worry, about a lot of things. Mostly, I worried about my family. Then I wondered how it would be when I came back. Would I be able to handle my job again? Would fellows like you accept me as an equal? It sounds silly, but it’s real enough at the time, and it’s bad for you. Unless your mind’s easy, your body can’t fight. [Music] Of course, one thing that snapped me out of it was when Helen came to visit. That’s one advantage of being in a hospital near home. We had plenty to talk about, the kids and all. Seeing her would chase away the glooms, make me know I had to get well. And the people in the hospital keep an eye on your mental state, too. They know. They sent in a rehabilitation man to talk to me about my work. I told him that I just wanted to be a mechanic again, and after talking to the doctors, he agreed to that. But he figured I ought to have an extra string to my bowl, just in case. He was smart: he sent me a course on part service, inventory control, and it was practical because I knew all about parts from the other end, and I did feel easier knowing that I had something to fall back on. They keep a constant check on you. X-rays and other tests. Well, it seemed a long time, and then I found that I was getting better. The doctor told me I was making some headway and could get up for a little exercise. [Music] Just a few steps at first, but I tell you,I was as pleased and proud as a kid with his first Christmas tree. They let you exercise by slow degrees. Just a little more each day, but finally, I was able to navigate just as well as ever. That builds up your confidence. [Music] At last, I was ready to come back. Like I said, I won’t pretend I liked it there, but the people in that hospital were swell to me. It’s true you have to cure yourself, but you can’t do it without their help. Coming back was wonderful, but it’s not a clean break. You just don’t go charging out into the world with a chip on your shoulder. We had a little celebration the first night at home. Just the family, but not late. You have to make adjustments in the way you live. That’s one word you get to know when you’ve had TB–adjustments. So I remembered to get to bed on time. [Music] Like when you go back to work, you can’t always handle fulltime at first. The boss was swell about that. He had talked to my doctor and fixed it so I could work in the parts department just mornings. [Music] That was three months ago, remember. That part-time job didn’t tire me. So I was anxious to get back to the old job. There’s another thing you learn to get used to when you come back. They warned me about it at the hospital. Some people are afraid of you…think they’re gonna catch TB if you get near them. Can’t say I blame them, but they’re all wrong. They don’t discharge you from a hospital and send you home until it’s safe all around. Of course, I was going regular to Doc Whipple for checkups. Last week, he gave me the word I was waiting for. Said I was well enough now to get back to the old job full time. Believe me, fellows, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve come all the way back. That you’re a fulltime man again. [Steve:] It’s great to have you back fulltime, Jack. See that you stay that way. [Jack:] See that you stay that way, too. [Steve:] Who, me? [Jack:] Yes, you. Both of you. The main reason I told you my story was to sell you one idea: get a physical examination regularly and a chest x-ray. If you haven’t had one for a year, make a date soon. It’s the smartest thing you can do. I know what I’m talking about. [Music]

One thought on “Coming Home (National Tuberculosis Assn, 1950)

  1. Something is missing here.  Hmmm.  Oh, the coughing up bloody sputum.  In this guy the sweats were his only real clue.  I hope those kids didn't catch it.  Unlikely though – he wasn't a cougher.  My grandfather gave my oldest brother TB.  He never knew until he went to the draft board 12 years later.

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