Click this link for Part I
Click this link for Part II
As I grew up there were two ways I knew my grandfather was blind in one eye. One way was that I was sometimes warned, “Be careful. You don’t want to lose your eye like Grandpa.” Mom and Dad will probably disagree that Grandpa was used as a warning to me, but I know the truth in this respect . . . . The other way I knew was that he had one blue eye, just like mine, and he had one green eye.
Everybody else I knew had two eyes of the same color.
In this next part of Grandpa’s story he tells Connie what happened to his eye.
In 1911, Grandpa’s eye was treated at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor, about 100 miles away from his home. I imagine the worried parents and the frightened boy travelling all that way on “streetcar, train and horse-drawn carriages.” What would that trip be like today? A visit in the car or ambulance to the nearest hospital, then perhaps a drive of an hour and a half to the medical center? In an ambulance or a car, depending on the urgency. The car would have the boy’s car seat in it. What was it like for him? Was he carried as they moved from one mode of transportation to the next?
I believe it’s likely that he was seen at the old hospital in Ann Arbor on Catherine Street. It is no longer there as it was replaced by the 700-bed University Hospital in 1925.
Today it’s hard to imagine letting your three-year-old play with a needle, but in those days children learned how to perform daily chores and trades at their parents’ sides.
The description of Grandpa bouncing off the table from being shocked by the X-ray machine is frightening. When I looked up the history of X-rays on Wikipedia, it was even more frightening. Although a lot of research led up to the moment, X-rays were not actually “discovered” until 1895. The site states, “The first use of X-rays under clinical conditions was by John Hall-Edwards in Birmingham, England on 11 January 1896, when he radiographed a needle stuck in the hand of an associate.” Since Grandpa’s injury was in 1911 and UM had only had the machine for twelve years, that means that they bought one of the first machines in 1899.
I understand that Grandpa’s medical records from 1911 are still stored at the University of Michigan. I hope I will be privileged to see a copy of them some day.
Here is a photo of the cute little boy who got a needle stuck in his eye:
Grandpa’s stoic attitude about his blind eye was typical of his personality. He didn’t show emotion very often, and he was quite practical. He loved his routines. His talent with routines and his prodigious memory proved invaluable when he became completely blind.