My early childhood was spent in rural Victoria, in an Air Force town named Sale.
Everyone knew one another and it was a very free environment for a young child. It was nothing for pre-schoolers to play outside without supervision (at least in my family).
In 1959 at the age of 4, I was diagnosed with measles. Initially, the worst part of it for me was not being able to leave the house and play. There were no measles parties. Nobody wished it on anyone else’s child because our parents knew how sick it could make you.
One day I woke up in a strange place all alone. I thought I was dreaming because it was so strange. I felt like I was lying in a warm bath but there was no water. I couldn’t really see anything except for my bed because it was all misty. I think I must’ve started crying at that stage because I was so scared and then a face and some hands appeared to comfort me. Then I could see what was outside of my misty environment. I was in a big room with about eight beds but there was nobody else in there. I was in hospital. I knew what a hospital was because I had recently had a tonsillectomy and had been given ice cream.
My mother tells me that my memory of the room is accurate and that I was in the middle of it in an oxygen tent right next to the nurses’ desk. Apparently I had been having difficulty breathing and was talking gibberish at home so my parents had called the doctor. Mum said they were very worried and weren’t sure if I was going to make it.
I had bilateral pneumonia as a complication of the measles. I’m not sure how long I was in the oxygen tent – probably only a day or so. I remember a nurse with blonde hair and blue eye shadow trying to give me needles and me fighting and screaming because it hurt. I remember them holding me down. I have no memory of how I ate or went to the toilet while I was in the oxygen tent.
After a day or so I was allowed out of the tent and into a normal bed. I started to quite like it because I had my own colouring in book and colouring pencils. The only bit I didn’t like was having to take some horrible medicine but they told me if I took it I didn’t have to have any more needles, so I took it. I started to have visitors, my parents and older siblings. I remember the food was really good because I could have sweets every night.
So that was Maureen’s miserable measles. Not being allowed out to play and then being in hospital scared and alone and having needles stuck into me. I don’t remember the not being able to breathe and talking gibberish – that was my parents’ nightmare.