Detourby Grace H. Kaiser
The author of Dr. Frau: A Woman Doctor Among the Amish continues her wonderful reminiscences. This time she includes the accident which paralyzes her professional life. Interwoven with the story of her personal struggle are stories of patients who come to see her when she is a patient-- and the memories of delivering babies, battling snowstorms, heartbreak,… See more details below
The author of Dr. Frau: A Woman Doctor Among the Amish continues her wonderful reminiscences. This time she includes the accident which paralyzes her professional life. Interwoven with the story of her personal struggle are stories of patients who come to see her when she is a patient-- and the memories of delivering babies, battling snowstorms, heartbreak, and joy. "This is a can't-put-it-down book." -- Bookends "She exhibits the heart and mind of a poet in her vivid descriptions and colorful similes . . . Readers will enjoy this well-written account of life as a country doctor and as a patient with the uncertainties of physical therapy." -- Mennonite Weekly Review
- Skyhorse Publishing
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.22(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.84(d)
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1 -- Blizzard
People die in blizzards. Sometimes they get lost in the whirling frenzy and their frozen bodies lie in an isolated furrow or among corn stubble and are not found until the snow melts.
Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, I had watched blizzards from behind window panes, in the comfort of warm rooms but had never seen a winter snowstorm unleashed on Lancaster County. Never had it been my responsibility to clash with this adversary. It would happen some day, and the knowledge that my rural patients expected their doctor to meet any villainous weather chilled me as snowflakes sifted into the barren pear tree and blew against mounded rose bushes. I dreaded snowstorms.
Blizzards hold awesome terror and beauty in their majestic power. Stories of people lost in drifts, frozen stiff, fingers and toes turning black and falling off, were among Grandfather's retold legends. Until his death, he relived the blizzard of 1888 in vivid detail at each winter's first flakes.
In the gray dusk Pete and I watched snowflakes of a predicted blizzard pirouette across our brown barn in fairy dances. They swirled against the faded wooden garage and dropped exhausted into an infant drift fingering its way across the drive.
My husband put an arm around me. "I'm sure glad it's Friday and I don't have to think about leaving the house until Monday," he said, shivering at the thought.
By bedtime only a little muffled traffic traveled New Holland's streets. The night was occasionally punctuated by a broken tire chain thumping a fender in sharp rhythm as some adventuresome soul braved the snowy night. The streetlight across Main Street was a milky blue. Icy blasts churned drifted snow with the falling flakes. It blew down the fireplace chimney, sending ashes into the living room. The storm wailed through the naked elm trees like sirens.
"Hope all my pregnant women stay quiet," I said at bedtime, pulling my nightgown over my head. "I've stocked up on bread and milk like everybody else. If the storm doesn't take down the electric lines, we'll be warm and fed. I got out the campstove and some candles, just in case." The quilts pulled around my neck gave a warm, safe feeling.
Pallid morning showed no letup. Spruce trees behind the house sagged with vanilla frosting. Our driveway was closed. An occasional truck drove the street. It was a day to crawl into a warm hole, curl up, and watch others flounder in the drifts.
As positive as an engraved invitation, the telephone rang, requesting my presence at a birthing. No. R.S.V.P. possible.
"Emma'll be needin' ya after while," Marvin Weaver said. "No hurry but in this weather ya better start out. Her labor ain't too strong yet."
Emma, why Emma, far out in the county? Why Emma, tenth pregnancy, twins the last time, maybe trouble at this birthing? Could I even get to her? She would need a doctor, not a neighbor or husband substitute. It would be better for me to reach her for the planned home birth than try to get her out and end up in a snowbank. "Your road open?" I asked.
"I think so, but not our lane. I'll meet ya at the highway with the tractor in an hour and bring you into the house. Okay?"
"Okay." But it was not okay. Neither my husband nor I owned a four-wheel drive. Even traveling in New Holland without it would be risky. The Weaver's serpentine lane followed along a tree-edged creek that caught wind and snow for nearly a mile. No other road in. I must have a 4 x 4. Last summer George Hoover, a block down Main Street, had offered his Jeep if I ever needed transportation in a storm. I had to use it.
Pete threw a shovel into the Jeep and sat beside George. I took my office nurse, Anna Good, with us. She would be an extra pair of hands, dressing the baby and enjoying the emotional high that birthing a baby gives the participants. Wrapped in a blue wool hat, heavy red coat and swathed in a plain green muffler, Anna squeezed in beside me on the back seat. Every time we opened the Jeep's door or met an icy blast, cold wind stung our faces and squinted our eyes. I was glad that I did not have to fight the blizzard alone.
Certain that the shortcut back roads through the farmlands would be drifted shut, we drove to Blue Ball and west. The blowing snow mingled with the new flakes obscuring roads, fences, and ditches. The landscape melted together in an opaque distorted haze.
George knew that the road lay between telephone poles on one roadbank and electric poles on the other. He steered down the middle hoping we met no other cars navigating the same course. Our tire chains grabbed the snow sending us through drifts we could not see until they flew over us like hurricane waves crashing the bow of a ship. At times we moved ahead in a straight line; sometimes we slid drunkenly along the crown of the road.
Passing through crossroad village, houses stood out in blurred silhouettes, their gloomy windows dark sunken eyes. "Looks like we're coming into Hinkletown," George called from within the wrappings of a gray muffler. The vapor of his words rose in a steamy cloud.
Staring intently into the storm, we nearly missed Marvin waiting at the roadside. He jumped from his caterpillar tractor like a huge black bear charging from its winter den, shook snow from his coat, and exhaled mist like a smokestack. "Glad you made it. Emma's fine yet. We'll hafta got through the fields. I'll break the way with the tractor." Snow dusted Marvin's long lashes and stubbled cheeks, closely framed by a black leather hat that fit over his ears and neck. He squinted through our open door. "Okay?" (continued)
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