By Jim Ignasher
It was the middle of the night, and there were eight of us – boys and girls – all standing in a line with nothing on but our underwear. I should probably mention here that we were a group of five-year-olds in a hospital, all recovering from the same procedure. We giggled among ourselves, for we all knew “somebody” was in deep trouble – and that “somebody” wasn’t any of us.
It’s strange how childhood memories can stay with us. Stranger still how I can recall incidents from decades ago, but I can’t remember where I put my car keys. I was born at the tail-end of the “Baby-Boomer” generation, and like a lot of kids who grew up in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, I had my tonsils removed. It was a more or less common and routine operation in those days, and almost everyone I knew had their tonsils out by the time they were six or seven.
For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, tonsils are two nodes used by the body to fight infection that reside at the back of the mouth/throat. Ironically, there was a time when it was standard practice for doctors to recommend their surgical removal as a way to prevent further infections.
While I wasn’t looking forward to the operation, I can recall that my experience turned out to be somewhat humorous. My parents and I arrived early in the morning for check-in, and by 9 a.m. they had me in a large room with seven other kids. There were eight beds, four on each side, facing opposite walls, with a small nurse’s office at the end of the ward. The metal beds and cotton linens were standard hospital white. The walls were painted a light, calming, blue, and the floor was covered in black and white checkerboard tiles that were likely made of materials which are banned today.
Everybody was clad in the standard open-backed “Johnny”, a time-honored fashion still used by hospitals that never seems to go out of style. And I think I already mentioned boys and girls were in this room together, something that would likely never happen today.
We’d all been informed that when we awoke after surgery our throats would hurt, but the day-nurse assured everyone the pain would be minimal, adding that to ease our discomfort we’d each receive a heaping bowl of ice cream! Well, at least that was something to look forward to, and the topic of conversation turned to our favorite flavors.
By the early afternoon they began doling out medication to sedate us.
“I’m not going to sleep! I’m staying awake!” declared the boy in the bed next to mine.
“Me either!” I replied. After all, who wanted to sleep through their own operation?
The next thing I knew it was the middle of the night and we were all back on the ward and starting to wake up. I soon realized that the day-nurse had grossly understated the pain we’d experience, but then I remembered the promise of ice cream. And so did everyone else.
However, despite our pleas, the tired looking night-nurse informed us there would be no ice cream – “Now go back to sleep!” she ordered. I can’t imagine on what planet she’d thought that would happen.
She had a ward full of 5-year-olds unable to sleep due to sore throats, all demanding the ice cream the day nurse had promised. We kept the pressure on until she finally caved like a house of cards, but in her sleepy state of mind I don’t think she thought everything through. The ice cream she brought was served to us on paper plates, and with plastic forks, not spoons! And it had already begun to melt on its way from the cafeteria to the ward. Think about that image for a moment; a bunch of 5-year-olds, in bed, eating melting ice cream off paper plates, with forks! What could possibly go wrong?
The ice cream was vanilla flavored, or at least it was supposed to be. Contrary to what the day-nurse had assured us, other flavors were not an option. Furthermore, it didn’t taste right, probably due to the affects of the anesthesia, but we didn’t know this at the time. Then a girl in the room announced in a loud voice, “This isn’t ice cream, its moose cream!”
Moose cream!? Okay, wait a minute here; what the Bugs Bunny were they trying to pull? I had no idea what “moose cream” was; I’d never heard of it; but I knew right away that I didn’t like it. Everybody knew ice cream was made of milk, and milk came from cows, not moose. And being five, I took her opinion as fact, as did everybody else in the room. We all stopped eating and began demanding ice cream, not moose cream. Meanwhile the ice cream continued to melt with predictable results.
Within fifteen minutes the night-nurse had to call in two orderlies to change our Johnnys and bed linens which they weren’t happy about for they looked like their slumber had been disturbed.
“Everybody stand in a line and hand me those clothes!” one ordered, meaning our Johnnys. And there we stood in our underwear, listening to the orderlies berate the night-nurse while they changed the linens.
“Paper plates! What the Daffy Duck were you thinking!?” one growled. (Or words to that effect.)
The night-nurse just stood silent.
Yes, “somebody” was definitely in trouble, but in our minds it was her own fault. She never should have served us “moose cream”.
After we were all cleaned up and issued new attire we were put back to bed, although I doubt any of us slept. Come morning our parents began arriving to take us home. Some of us tried to relate our near fatal encounter with the moose cream, but we were met with skepticism.
“Honest! They tried to poison us with moose cream!”
“Sure, sure. Kids these days. What imaginations!”
And the night-nurse was nowhere to be found.
Fifty-four years later I can still remember it all like it was yesterday. Now where the Yosemite Sam did I put my car keys?