What are your first memories?
When I cast my mind back, the earliest cohesive memories I have are from about age 3. I have some flickers of memories from when I was 2-1/2, but none of them very pleasant.
When I was that age, I fell down at a beach. Had pain in my extremities and wouldn't eat. I don't remember any of that — it's what my mom's told me — you know something is wrong with one of the George boys when he won't eat — and what I've read in my medical records, which, unfortunately, aren't totally complete.
7SEP1971: Stomach ache x 3 days. 2-1/2 y.o. has complained of intermittent abd. pain over the weekend. Pain last short periods of time perhaps 3/day. ..... T cult. clear liquids. observe & ret.
13SEP1971: Fall approx. 2 weeks ago. complaining of back pain. ... prob. back spasms
18SEP1971: Still has back pain. walks w/ shuffling gait. .. child has been @ bed rest ... walk legs hurt. will get xray auth.
20SEP1971: (patient) can't walk
What I remember from this time is being in the hospital. It was a Naval Hospital here on Guam that was used to treat military personnel who suffered head and/or spinal wounds in Vietnam, so I was lucky in that there were top-flight surgeons there to operate on me. Even then I was giving a 50-50 chance of never walking again.
It was a traumatic time for me. I was the only kid there and was put in a ward all by myself — like 20 or 30 beds with just me there in a quiet hospital. My parents visited when they could, for the hours they could, but I ended up being alone and scared a lot.
I believe this is why I have a hard time eating certain foods. OK, I CAN’T eat certain foods — peas, lima beans, mixed vegetables, stew, beans … it was all stuff served up regularly by the hospital’s chow hall. So I mentally tie that food to the painful, lonely memories of a dark hospital. It’s not as bad now as it once was, when I would vomit at the taste — and sometimes even just the smell — of these dishes.
29SEP1971: The patient was placed on the standard operating table in the prone position and the mid thoracic area was prepared by shaving it and scrubbing it with tincture of Betadine. It was draped in the usual sterile manner. The incision was made from T8 down to T11 in the midline and carried down through the subcutaneous tissue. The skin edges were maintained in a retracted position by means of Weitlaner retractors. The paravertebral muscles were dissected off the spinous processes of T8 down to T11 on both sides. These muscles were maintained in the retracted position by means of Weitlaner retractors. The interspinous ligament was cut. The spinous procees of T8 down to T11 was removed. Using sharp and blunt dissection, the lamina of T8-T11 was removed. At this point it was noted that there was vascular necrotic tissue at the area of T10 which was enveloping the dura. The tumor was limited outside the dura and it was occupying the vertebral canal. The capsule of this tumor had completely strangulated the dura at this level.
That’s where the surgery records get cut off. I guess they were misplaced during one of the many moves the Air Force put us through over the years.
Basically, they cut out a tumor. Luckily, it turned out not to be malignant.
7OCT71: three year old with 2 weeks history of progressive weakness in both lower extremities and back pain. X-Rays show vertebra plana; myelogram showed complete block at T-10. Biopsy compatible with eosinophilic ganuloma enveloping cord.
From 30 Sept to 7 Oct the patient received 6 x-ray treatments over a period of 8 days. the daily dose was 200 r.
50% reduction in size of mass, no reaction, no complication. Will follow with neurosurgery service.
(from a letter written by the commander of the Orthopaedic Department at the Naval Hospital in Oakland)
25SEP1973: Postoperatively his neurologic symptoms were corrected and he has done well; he was held in a brace for an undisclosed period of time. Apparently the brace has either broken or the patient has outgrown it.
On admission to this facility the patient was a well-developed, well-nourished 4-1/2 year old who was in no distress. There was a well-healed 6” midline scar over the mid-lower thoracic spine. There was no clinical kyphosis nor palpable defect underlying the scar. Neurologic examination was normal with no evidence of long tract signs. Deep tendon reflexes and sensation were intact, sphincter tone was normal. NO muscle wasting was evident, no pathological reflexes were noted. There was no marked increase in lordosis nor was any pelvic tilting evident on standing.
The rest of the letter is about putting me in a body jacket made of Orthoplast to prevent spine curvature, and how they had to send it from Oakland to Guam because my father and I had to return to Guam prematurely because of a death in the family (my grandmother, my dad’s mom).
On the previous brace, my mom has told me that I was a holy terror in that thing. I was supposed to be restricted in movement and not go overboard … so of course I ran around all the time and climbed trees and what not. My mom broke a toe on the brace once when she tried to give me a little swiping ass kick to make me slow down. Heh.
Random Guam Fact Of The Day:
• The construction of the current Naval Hospital on Guam began in 1953 and opened in 1954. In September 1965, the hospital began receiving casualties from Vietnam via medevack flights. Within three months, the average patient load increased from about 100 to more than 300, and in 1968 and 1969 often exceeded 700.