I’m just coming off getting smacked with a dose of pneumonia. A faithful flu shot recipient, it’s been years since I’ve been laid so low. I hope it’s years before I’m there again. Meanwhile, I’m heeding the advice of my friends: Drink hot tea, honey, lemon juice and maybe just a smidgen of rum.
My grandfather’s brother, Uncle Will, was, what we used to call, an “eye, ear, nose and throat man.” Today that specialist is an otolaryngologist, or an “ENT man.” I’m sure these days there’s a woman there somewhere.
When I was four years old, two of my brothers and I, plus three cousins, were herded into Uncle Will’s office in downtown Hartford, Conn., where we had our tonsils removed. There was nothing wrong with our tonsils; we had not been sick from those tonsils. It was just the way things were done. Besides, it was a bargain.
I can barely remember the event which is probably just as well.
Over the years whenever Uncle Will came to visit our house, my fellow victims and I would run screaming to our rooms, where we stayed until he left. To this day, when I get a sore throat_ apparently the torture didn’t work _ I mutter, “Curse you, Uncle Will.”
My grandfather, also a physician, took a lesson from the incident and refused to treat any of his grandchildren rather than incur their boundless hatred. Of course, there was little likelihood of that: he was a dermatologist. But he wouldn’t even take off a wart!
Today, tonsillectomies are not done quite that casually. In fact, when our doctor in Connecticut suggested surgery for our daughter whose sore throats were becoming legendary, my friends cringed in horror. “They don’t do that any more,” they all advised. Meanwhile, at age four, she was losing weight because she could barely swallow. We went ahead and it was a major success. And she enjoyed the traditional therapy of the day: eating buckets of ice cream. Her siblings gladly offered to go under the surgeon’s knife just to partake of the unlimited doses of vanilla (not chocolate) ice cream.
While all this was going on my husband was quietly (unusually quietly) nursing a never-ending sore throat of his own and again the family doctor recommended a specialist, an ENT man. This guy took one look at the very sick throat and said those tonsils had to come out. (Actually he said nothing of the kind; he was Korean and I couldn’t understand a word he said. But I got the gist of it.)
My friends again were aghast. “He can’t have his tonsils out; he’s 33 years old!”
But he did, and lived to tell about it. He also laid claim to the tried-and-true ice cream therapy and recovered in no time.
To this day, with 50 percent of our family without tonsils, we’re not exactly a data base for tonsillectomies. However, for the next few months I will keep a space in the cupboard where will reside a little lemon juice, some tea bags, a portion of honey, and just a smidgen of rum.