Here is my text :
And had just taken one step away from childhood,
When she fell ill with high fever and red spots.
It was late December,
And colder than ever remembered,
There was war everywhere else except here.
A very bad strain of an infectious disease spread throughout the town.
Several children had already died.
Although an unoccupied country,
It was still not a good place to become ill.
Water-pipes froze in apartment buildings,
So tenants had no drinking-water.
But their house was better built.
There were no heaters in motor vehicles,
Not even in ambulances,
Should she be taken to hospital?
She was better off at home.
In fever-dreams she heard the doctor say:
'She won't last the night'.
But she didn't care.
She was going to Heaven.
Her temperature was almost 40 degrees Celsius.*
Outside, it was almost minus 40 degrees Celsius.**
But she didn't care.
She had just taken one step away from childhood,
And now one step away from life.
The young doctor thought of a new drug that might help her.
He took it upon himself to fetch Sulfa at the army compound.
That was where the lastest medicines were first tried out.
But what dose should he use? Would the same dose for a tall soldier?
Be too strong for a fourteen-year-old girl?
The Sulfa worked.
The fever broke.
It seemed that she would survive.
But she went into a coma,
That lasted twenty-one days.
With no way to feed her or give her drink,
She nearly starved to death.
But after three weeks she woke up.
She looked like a prisoner of war,
Who just left a concentration camp.
The skirt she once wore fell off when she tried to stand;
And then she fell, because she could neither walk nor stand.
So much forgotten during three weeks' sleep.
She had forgotten what she had learned in school, too.
She had just taken one step from childhood,
But it seemed to be one step back into infancy.
Mother, Father and Nurse, all took turns walking with her,
So much to relearn,
If she were to return to life,
And everything exhausted her.
It was now she recalled what she heard the doctor say,
In her fever-dream,
Now she understood,
And cried and cried;
She felt afraid,
And knew that she had almost died,
But was restored to life.
Word count according to WordCalc: 400; 'FCA' (Full Critique Acceptable)
*40 degrees Celsius = 104 degrees Fahrenheit
** minus 40 degrees Celsius = minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit
This poem/story is based on fact. The girl in the story is someone whom I know very well and who is still alive today as I write this text.
Sulfa was a new drug in 1941; it was later used to induce coma when needed; but they did not know that back then. This was before antibiotics (which would not have helped much because the Measles is a viral infection) and before the use of IV-bags/bottles to hydrate or medicate a patient.
Sorry about the lack of romance, folks! This is actually a real-life Cinderella-story. But this is only 'part one'; she meets her prince in 'part two'.
If I were to write a purely fictional story, I could make the young doctor fall in love with the girl whose life he saved. But that is not what actually happened. I feel it is my duty to keep this story as true to the original facts as possible.
I am fascinated by the idea that one person's actions can help another person survive or let them die. In this case, I wish I knew more about the facts. I could kick myself for not asking the right questions at a time when I had access to a person who was there at the time. I am not sure that the doctor had this medicine with him when he visited the fever-ridden girl. Maybe he really did have to make a trip out in minus 40 degree weather in order to get the Sulfa. What possessed him to do that? Youthful curiosity? A sense of professional pride and duty? Or did the fact that his boss was a close friend of the girl's father make him try a little harder?
There are so many questions that I may never find a definite answer to. Did he suffer afterward, as a result of this outing in the bitter cold? Or maybe he was dressed well enough. Was the fact that other young patients had died of the Measles a factor in his decision? Maybe he decided that he would do all that was possible so that there would be no more deaths?
What I would like to do for this doctor, is to at least find out who he was. There is a hospital archive through which I may be able to identify him. I would like to honour the memory of the man who saved the life of this girl in 1941, seventy years ago.