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August 5, 2009 - Karin Elton
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was in the news recently because some new compositions of his were found. I found out that Mozart, who was born in 1756, died of rheumatic fever on Dec. 5, 1791.
I had rheumatic fever and so did members of my extended family. I recently learned at my uncle Orville’s visitation that he spent a year in bed because of rheumatic fever. Orville’s brother, Warren, died young because of it. Warren had a band and played using the name Wally Warren. My mom remembers him as someone who took a lick off of each of his siblings’ ice cream cone before handing it to them.
I was 4 when I would complain every night to my mom that my legs hurt. Finally, my oldest sister told my mom, “Take that girl to the doctor.”
I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever. I didn’t know what rheumatic was, but I had heard of the word “romantic,” so I thought they were saying I had romantic fever.
I spent a few days in the hospital in Willmar where we lived back then. It was during Kaffefest and I couldn’t go. My siblings waved to me from outside the hospital room window. Children couldn’t visit back then. I remember a nurse giving me the other half of a popsicle from a kid who just had his or her tonsils out.
When I got home I couldn’t walk. My older sister carried me around on her back. I had to have a penicillin shot in the tush every month. I was a quiet, shy girl, but I called that nurse “a creep” because it hurt. My dad thought that was so funny that I said, “You creep!” to the nurse. After that, they gave me big old penicillin pills. When we moved to St. Paul when I was a third grader, the doctor said I didn’t have to take them anymore.
You don’t hear of people getting rheumatic fever anymore. I guess because it starts as a strep infection and people get that taken care of.
Romantic fever is still around though. It recently hit a South Carolina governor pretty hard, just as one example.
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