To the editor:
Reading about the continuing metamorphosis of Peabody's former J.B. Thomas Hospital has me remembering back to the afternoon on the last day of April 1953, when I was wheeled unconscious into the emergency room, a casualty of the American Polymer Corp. chemical plant explosion on Foster Street. I woke up looking into the face of our family physician, Dr. John F. Walsh, who was stitching my scalp back into place.
The hospital was hard-pressed to find room for me. After a brief stint in a corridor, my bed was rolled into a packed, smoke-filled, men's ward. Two days later, the mostly cigar smoke pall, stoked by the excitement of the Kentucky Derby flickering from a lone black and white television set, triggered my asthma allergies. Gasping for breath, it was unbearable! What to do?
The frantic nursing staff eventually put me in the only space available; the second floor solarium. Surrounded by glass on three sides, this lone occupant enjoyed his view of the world, a view that would last for six weeks.
Memories of that stay included that of my sister's bridal party stopping by on their way from the wedding ceremony to the reception. Others were of high school buddies sneaking up the back stairs with pizza.
The most ominous occurred on the afternoon of June 9 when heavy, dark clouds roiled the sky. Hospital staff anxiously went from room to room turning off radios and televisions. A blue-candy-striper volunteer took me into her confidence, informing this was being done so news of the tornado that just struck Worcester wouldn't upset patients.