They burned my diapers

By Cindi Rinehart

All of my life people have said to me, “Cindi, you’re so funny or Cindi, you’re crazy.” Well, not only have I been struck by lightening not once, but twice! That alone could account for why folks think I’m a little “off.” This next little ditty probably had something to do with my “oddness” because I was only six when they burned my damn diapers.

Our family was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas while my AF pilot Dad went off to build the Alaskan Pipe Line. One day, I remember going to school feeling really sick, but in our house you went school even if you were dying. No excuses. Sometime during that day the school nurse called my mom and told her to come get me because I was I had a dangerously high fever.

By the time my mom picked me up, the fever was so bad I was practically delirious. When she noticed that I had giant hives all over my body. (I do mean, everywhere!) She rushed me to the base hospital where the doctors immediately put me in isolation. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me from the initial tests they ran. Meanwhile, I was getting sicker by the minute. Luckily for me, there was a convention of 17 or 18 high-ranking Air Force doctors and specialists at the base. The hospital staff invited them in to examine “the troubling case in the isolation ward” aka, me. After hours of poking and prodding, they told mom to go home and they’d call her as soon as they found out what was making me so sick.

Endless hours and tests turned into days and although I barely remember those feverish days, I do remember being lonely and scared, and worst of all, because I was not allowed to move, they made me wear diapers! It was a red headed freckled faced doctor that stands out in my mind from the endless procession of doctors that passed through my room. One day, when no one was looking, he slipped me a red tootsie pop, and told me not to tell anyone he had given it to me. That red tootsie pop was my only bright light in my lonely little life.

The only time they moved me out of the isolation ward was when they wheeled me into some dark, cold room and covered me with burning hot pads all over my body to try and get the hives to melt away, I guess. I learned later that they wouldn’t let anyone visit but kept calling my mom with news of all the things I didn’t have: polio, tuberculosis, meningitis, epilepsy, diabetes, etc.

Finally the doctors determined that I had somehow contracted not one but three (count ‘em, three) life-threatening diseases all at once. I had scarlet fever, a terrible case of strep throat and the German measles. Then they phoned with the good news that my fever had gone down. and told mom that it would be alright for me to have visitors. Yeah! I was so happy to see my brothers and little sister, and my mom and dad. Of course friends of my parents poured in too. Everyone brought me tons of presents, stuffed animals, toys, and even a set of blue lace diapers. I really made a haul.

I remember thinking maybe this made up for being so scared and lonely for so many days. Goody-goody.

My fever broke and when I woke up on the day I was to go home, all my presents were gone. All my stuffed animals, all my toys, and even my lace diapers. The room was empty. Nothing…everything gone! The doctors had decided that my stuff could be contaminated so the hospital staff hauled it all out and burned every single toy and piece of clothing. Even my fancy blue lace diapers. What???

I don’t know what these guys had for my prognoses, diagnoses or schmognoses. All I know is that, even at the tender age of six, call it spirit or call it orneriness, I wasn’t ready to die. I hate hospitals to this day.

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