On a Sick Son

The boy lay helpless in the hospital. The diagnosis was an extreme case of sepsis. The father mirrored the helplessness of the sick son. These were the days before antibiotics, so the illness was potentially lethal.

It seemed so innocent. The boy, age 16, had played a game of lawn tennis with his older brother, age 17, on a warm June afternoon. He had made the seemingly innocuous decision to wear his tennis shoes without socks. Little did the boy know that doing this would cause a small blister to form on the the third toe of his right foot. It was this minor abrasion that would lead to the infection.

Such illnesses were not uncommon a hundred years ago. Things that we today would think almost nothing about were the cause for much concern back then–even though sepsis is still a major concern in hospitals to this day. In this particular case, the lad would first have swelling and redness at the site of the wound, fever, swelling of his groin; then, within a week, black infection at the foot and red streaks up his leg would manifest.

He was admitted to a hospital, but there was little the doctors could do at that point. They tried blood transfusions and mercurochrome, but these had little effect. Within two weeks, the young man was dead.

Parents should never have to bury their children. The father of this boy never recovered from the loss. He changed from being an engaged person, hardworking, dedicated, but with a sharp wit and generous smile, into a man who slept often 16 hours a day. When he did work, it was only for short periods of time. He was often found at his desk with his head bowed, eyes filled with tears.

The father loved all of his children, but he was closest to this son that he lost too young and too soon. His heartbreak is said to have led to his own premature death at age 60, less than ten years after his son.

Oh, the name of the young man who passed away too soon?

Calvin Coolidge, Jr.

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