The year my siblings and I came down with the mumps proved a challenge for my mother and old Doc Hazlett, who came to our house. He carried the standard issue doctor's black bag. It always intrigued me how it snapped open to reveal his assorted medicinal potions and a dozen or so tongue depressors.
He felt foreheads, flashed a light in our eyes and examined the puffy sore cheeks and throats of all of us showing clear signs of having the mumps. Several of us were sick at the same time and I often wondered if the good doctor charged by the house call or the number of patients he attended.
Kids today - thankfully - don't face this disease at the rate we did, as it has been nearly eradicated via vaccines. For those of us who did go through it, well, it was not pleasant.
We were sick with fever and aches. The mumps caused our glands in our necks to swell out of proportion and we all resembled characters out of some wacky TV show. Oh, and when you have the mumps, you must protect your eyes from bright light so the curtains were pulled tightly closed and TV was out of the question. Reading under the lights also was not allowed until our symptoms improved.
The worst part of all this is that we were sick over the Easter holiday. Even if we had the desire to chomp on some chocolate bunny ears, it hurt too much to swallow or chew. Soup and pudding were about all we could manage until the swelling receded. There is probably a scientific reason that the mumps outbreaks would always occur in the spring, but it was cruel after a long winter indoors.
Modern medicine has gained much ground over the childhood illnesses my siblings, friends and I endured growing up in the 1950s and '60s. I am most grateful that future generations will not have to feel the pain of mumps, the blotchy discomfort of chicken pox and the itchiness of measles. Polio is not feared as it was for my parents' generation and "iron lungs" and tuberculosis are no longer words commonly spoken as they once were.
For all the major victories over disease, we still long for cures for cancer, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, AIDS and so on. To defeat these ills we must be dedicated to research and find better means of keeping ourselves healthy.
What we don't need is the stress that has been inflicted upon millions of us over this country's health care initiative. My guess is this debacle of trying to sign up for the government program, canceling insurance policies, reinstating policies and so on has sent more people to e-rooms and doctors' offices than ever before.
Maybe it's time we make a few "House" calls and let our lawmakers know exactly how sick we are of the fighting. We want a cure for what ails us.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.