TONSIL TROUBLE

My name is Rita, and this is my story. When I was seven years old, a knock came on the door. I was living in Newfoundland at the time; my mother was still alive. And a knock came on the door, with a taxi driver saying that he came for Rita, to go to Markland Hospital to have her tonsils out.

It was a law made by the authorities in Newfoundland at the time, and my mother was listening. The law was the law. She said, “Oh I’ll get her ready.” And she got me ready and put me in the car. Seven years old. And I went to Markland Hospital, which was about a two hour drive away, to get my tonsils out.

And the reason that man came for me was because my cousin, in the town, had the same name as me: Rita. And when the driver of the car went to pick her up, she ran upstairs and got under the bed and wouldn’t get out from under the bed and wouldn’t go to the hospital. So the driver, he needed three people in the car – he already had two people – and when the other Rita wouldn’t get in the car, he knew my name was Rita, so he came to my house!

And I was only seven years old, and at the time, you had to be 11 to be taken to the hospital, to have your tonsils out. I don’t know what law made it, but the law was at the time: when you became 11 years old you just automatically had to go and get your tonsils out. And of course everybody there obeyed the law. So that was the reason he came and got me.

And then when I did go and have my tonsils out, it was only supposed to be a one-night stay and then the driver of the car would take you home the next day. But I needed a blood transfusion, and I was kept in for three days. So I had trouble. 

Your parents didn’t go with you to the hospital, no way. I just went with the two other ladies that the driver of the car took. You had to have three people at the hospital at the same time. And the other two were in the car already and then he came for me. I had the same name; that’s why I went to have my tonsils out. You wouldn’t get away with it today, no way, no way.

But I got home after three days and recovered completely, naturally. And the next year they made the law that nobody had to get their tonsils out. They did away with that law. It was no longer mandatory to have your tonsils out. 

And to this day, I’m friendly with the other – my cousin – Rita, and she had trouble all her life! And she had always got mad at me saying, “You shouldn’t have gone in my place. I should have gone.” We always made jokes about it. She had trouble with her tonsils all her life, and I didn’t. But we’re friends, and she’s 94 today. She’s four years older than I am. 

And when I came to this country and when I got married, I had four children. When my first child was born, I said to the doctor, “What about tonsils? What do you do when the child has it?” He said, “You have to be upset with tonsils at least four times a year before they would think about taking the tonsils out.”

They did not automatically take tonsils out. Why they did that in Newfoundland, I don’t know! But in this country I learned right away, and my four children never had to have tonsils out. The pediatrician always said they had to be troubled at least four times before we would think about taking tonsils out. And none of my children ever had to go and have tonsils out.

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