#Writephoto – Calm

The calm exterior of the neatly dressed, elderly woman in the chair crumbled. Her lined face twisted as the tears flowed down her face and sobs racked her body.

“I watched him die in the back room. He was only three years old.”

The doctor in the other chair nodded encouragingly but did not say anything.

“He stood on a rusty nail in the backyard. Within a few days he became ill with a high fever and it soon became apparent that there was something very wrong with him. The doctor came but there were no antibiotics available in those early days of the war so there was little he could do to stop the infection that swept through Grant’s child’s body.”

The doctor wrote some notes on the startlingly white page of his notebook.

“We watched him die an agonizing death. All the muscles in his frail body spasmed until eventually, the extensor muscles of his back arched backwards and locked, his arms flexed to his chest with his small fists clenched. He died with his baby teeth bared and an unintentional and horrendous grin on his face. They call it the grinning death.”

Her words stopped and she drew in a deep and shuddering breath.

“Tetanus Following Gunshot Wounds," 1809. Sir Charles Bell's painting of a soldier suffering from tetanus.

1809 Painting by Sir Charles Bell entitled “Tetanus Following Gunshot Wounds” depicting a soldier suffering from tetanus.

This piece was written for Sue Vincent’s weekly photo challenge, https://scvincent.com/2018/11/08/thursday-photo-prompt-calm-writephoto/

31 thoughts on “#Writephoto – Calm

  1. Roberta, your writing is superb. This story is so real and I know those things did and do happen. My 5 year old brother, at the time, had blood poisoning and if it wasn’t for antibiotics I can’t imagine how awful it would have been.

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      1. Roberta, my pleasure and I am so grateful that we live in a time when antibiotics are available to save lives and we have Tetanus shots too to help save lives. I can’t imagine what it was like for families that loss loved ones, usually small children, to blood poisoning. Heartbreaking. Karen:)

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      2. Roberta, that must have been one of the most terrifying events for you and for your son Greg. Thank goodness you knew what to look for, not that many people do know what they are looking at, it may seem too insignificant, at first, and then it maybe too late. Karen.

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      1. Roberta, my pleasure and something that parents should really watch carefully when the little ones come inside from playing outside with rusty dirty things that they find fascinating to play with. It is shocking when a tiny little scratch can cause such a terrible outcome. Thank you again, Karen 🙂

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  2. Growing up “rusty nail” was always the threat, and promise, of lock-jaw and hospitalization. To die from this must have been agonizing. I always thought it was the “rust” part that caused the illness. Only later did I learn of the common dirt bacteria that is the source. For millennia humans died of this (and still do). There must be an extra couple of billion people on the planet these days due to modern medicine.

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      1. It’s a toss up between medicine and fossil fuels. Without nearly free energy (coal and crude oil) the world would have starved — and would starve today. (I debate such things with my cronies…)

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