The 100 Days Cough. That was the nickname of pertussis.
Imagine if you can, having six children (15mos-10yrs) all sick with whooping cough. At the same time. For 3 continuous months. Memorial Day until after Labor Day.
This was my mother's life the summer of 1958. Or, as she calls it "The Summer of No-Sleep".
With the recent occurrences of Pertussis here in the Pacific Northwest in the news almost nightly, my mother's memories of that awful summer have been brought back to life.
Just prior to Memorial Day 1958 my second oldest sister fell ill. My mother would quickly quarantine any of her sick children to the sofa in the 'front room', one that was used only for company in hopes that it would lessen the chance of transmission of the illness. It was too late.
Within 10 days, all six of us children were sick with mild fevers and congestion. The three oldest kids had all missed their last days at school. At first, the illness is not that bad, more resembling a bad cold virus. Then the BAD coughing starts. Then the vomiting.
The daytime wasn't so bad, my mother recalls. The older kids were well enough to play outside. They'd run around, begin a coughing fit and then vomit. About 10x's a day. She said it was like clockwork- once an hour.
The nights were her nightmare. All night long, the sounds of 6 children coughing, whooping and then vomiting; all requiring their mothers comfort. Our achy ribs and stomach muscles all wanting Mom's gentle touch to ease us. Not to mention her having to change bedsheets and pajamas of those who vomited in their sleep.
She tells me that summer she lost 20 pounds. She had hollow and dark circles around her eyes until Halloween time. She remembers that time specifically because she likened herself to having Jack-o-lantern eyes.
So, for nearly 100 days my mother had interrupted sleep and still had to cook meals, clean house and do laundry for six children. My father helped out on the weekends and when he was home from work, but remember, this was the 50's and most of the work fell to my mom.
By this time in the late 1950's, vaccines were available. But none of us kids' had received any of them. My father's mother had been a Christian Scientist. She passed away when he was 13. My father was not a religious man, but remnants of his mothers beliefs stayed with him, and he didn't 'believe in' vaccines. Why my mother went along with that I still cannot understand.
She herself at 4 months old had survived diphtheria in 1925, her twin brother did not.
Finally, autumn came around and the children were nearly all recovered. Just one of the school aged kids, (my eldest sister) was unable to enter school due to her lingering cough. One week later she was admitted. With only two children at home now, finally my mother was able to catch up on her sleep. She tells me it was nearly Thanksgiving time before she really felt rested and healthy again.
We were lucky. No serious complications like pneumonia were contracted. A few did have earaches during the summer, but nothing that required hospital visits.
It wasn't too long after that summer that I remember my mom walking us all to the local high school for the polio vaccine. Then at our doctor check ups we all would eventually receive the recommended vaccines that were available. And the three babies she delivered over the next 8 1/2 yrs all received every vaccine.
Yes, nine children. The oldest is now 65, the 'baby' 45. Mom is still kicking at 87. And to this day, the only time during those years that she deemed 'awful' was the summer of 1958.
54 years later and she now has 21 grandchildren and 14 great grandkids. All 21 were fully vaccinated. I can't say that for the 'greats'. Six of them are unvaccinated. Their parent's, like my father once said; "Don't believe in vaccines". Of course, with most of America's children vaccinated now and the advances in caring for sick children-I don't think their kids are at too great of risk. But I do worry for those who are; the elderly, the very young and those with immune disorders. I won't preach at them, but I will share my mothers story of that 'awful summer'.