Jennifer Harrison
Med J Aust 2012; 197 (3): 185. || doi: 10.5694/mja12.10214
Published online: 6 August 2012

She was not told the meaning of absence
why parents could not visit
except on weekends — and then only for an hour.

The 1906 Home Handbookof Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine outlines the treatment for rheumatic afflictions —
hot blanket packs, repeated. She
remembers those who wrapped her body

in hairy blankets to preserve her rheumatic heart
— remembers how the blankets electrified
her body so the static in her hair and skin
made a nurse jump back as though burned

by something cold. And she began to think
of God as a story, not a question — as an infant
full of milk, relentless, but not yet cruel.
She remembers children dying in the next bed

almost every day, their freshly smoothed sheets
their blankets neatly folded, as each morning
hiemal sun rose shakily above the window
inside which a verandah of wheelchairs wintered.

Hot blanket compresses and high-dose salicylates were recommended treatments for rheumatic fever (Kellogg JH. Home hand-book of domestic hygiene and rational medicine. 1906).

  • Jennifer Harrison

  • The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, VIC.



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