The School Nurse Crisis

I was eleven when the call came from the school nurse. Phone Nurse

When I got home from school that day, it was not business as usual.

My mother looked at me like I’d just been diagnosed with leprosy, malaria, polio, or any other malady of the day that was cause for panic.

tomahawkThe nurse could not locate the reflex in my left knee. I remember her pounding at it with that little tomahawk-looking thing, but it didn’t seem important.

They quickly arranged a follow-up visit to a neurologist in Philadelphia.

This was serious. I was scared.

Serious enough that my father had to take a day off, unpaid, to drive me into the city.

My father was untypically silent on the drive.

Now, I was starting to panic. What was so wrong about not having that reflex ?

After the exam, the doctor called in my dad. The next conversation is one I remember .Reflex

Dr. N. (for Neurologist): “Why are you blocking the reflex in your left knee”?

Me:  “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.”

Dr. N. : “Is there something going on in your family that is upsetting you” ?

Me:  “Not really.” That was a lie, but I digress.

Dr. N. : “Are you trying to get attention for yourself” ?

Me: “No, Sir”. Thinking, are you kidding me, I’m 11, of course I am !

Dr. N.: “I see no physiological reason why this is happening, go home and have a talk with your family. ”

Ouch. A lost day at work, overpriced consultation fee, a family in panic, a confused 11 year old, and all because the nurse had said this to my mother on the phone that day:

“We’re not sure, but it would be best to have this checked out; sometimes it can be an early sign of venereal disease. “

This information was not shared with me until years later. My understanding is that a working reflex that is lost can be problematic. There is a good chance that I never really had a strong reflex in that knee.

Every time I meet up with a new physician, I fake the reflex. All is well.


** Note: This is not the post I’d planned to write today. A simple comment by Cordelia’s Mom on a post by Nutsrok triggered this memory. Where Babies Come From.

This entry was posted in Childhood, Education, Family, Health Issues and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to The School Nurse Crisis

  1. Victo Dolore says:

    Ah. School nurses create a ton of panic, though your venereal disease takes the cake! 🙂

  2. A.PROMPTreply says:

    Geez! What a thing…..might have been better had it been retested at the school level or even with a family doc before all this was called for! Unbelievable!

  3. WHAT?? Good grief! I wonder how many other families were overwrought by her assessments?

  4. lbeth1950 says:

    Oh my gosh! I can only imagine what was going through you parents’ minds, the questions they had and were afraid to ask.

    • Yep, I’ll bet. My folks were busy with their 4th child, who almost died from an Rh factor issue, their much wanted first son. This was an unnecessary worry !

  5. AmyRose says:

    OH, VAN!! What a horrible thing for that nurse to say to your parents. Shocking? You poor thing, and your parents too! I’m glad to see no lasting damage was done. 😉 Venereal disease in an 11 year old? Really? What WAS this um nurse thinking? *shakes head in disgust* ❤

    • Thanks, Amy, but I really don’t think I want to know what she was thinking ! I’m sure I wasn’t her only victim…so much lack of information. It was early in 1960’s. Hope we all became more informed. ☺

  6. Good lord what a lot fuss for something that really didn’t warrant it. Veneral didease!?!? No wonder your parents were acting so strange.

  7. The school nurse is one of my worse fears, even to this day. She always scared me, and many of my friends, so much that just the thought of having go to see her would make me physically sick. Sounds like the Nurse at your school was much like the one we had at our school. I wonder if they were all trainned at the same place?

  8. George says:

    Wow…that’s crazy. Even back then it’s hard to imagine the nurse saying something that bizarre to your Mom. Of course, she probably retained her job as school nurse, didn’t she.

  9. LaVagabonde says:

    Sounds like that school nurse had an unnatural fixation on VD.

  10. Silver Threading says:

    Oh my gosh! That is typical for the time period, I am sure. In the 60’s and 70’s everyone freaked out about sex. You do have to admit now that the whole incident was hysterical, though! I do love when you share these memories. ❤

    • Hey there Colleen, It was funny in retrospect, but if you could see a picture of me at that age…I look more like 6 than 11, and the idea of anything remotely sexual…was a tad ridiculous. Still…don’t know what her life experience was…so, there’s that. Thanks for the comment…I missed it earlier. ❤️

  11. Sounds like that nurse had a few problems of her own. Couldn’t she have thought to ask you some discreet questions before calling your parents and scaring them?

    I remember my youngest coming home from kindergarten in underwear other than what she went to school in. This was right around the time a daycare center had been shut down due to the staff sexually abusing the kids. I didn’t know what to think, so I called the nurse. It was very simple: my kid had wet herself, and the nurse kept a supply of underwear in all different sizes to give to kids who had incidents like that. She used her own money to do so. I went out the next day and bought a bunch of kid sized underwear and donated it the nurse. She was one of the good ones.

    I’m glad I inspired your post. And thanks for the plug.

    • Sadly, we had that daycare abuse situation here in PA a few years back, and it had everyone frightened and concerned. How nice to hear your nurse’s kindness to those children…a nice ending for a change. This is the second time in a week that your name has come up in a post..the other in Mark B.’s regarding some blog “imitating”. Might be time to follow you. ☺ Thanks for the comment that triggered this for me. Van

  12. markbialczak says:

    Now that’s something, Van. Damned if I ever heard a story exactly like that one. Happy VD to you. Valentine’s Day. Veteran’s Day. Viola Day. Violet Day. Just not that other thang.

  13. What a story. It reads like a horrible comedy skit. I hope you were all able to laugh about it later and glad you can now. Keep faking the reflex just to be safe 🙂

    • Thanks, Diana. We didn’t talk about it too often, but I laughed in the retelling of it to those outside the family. And yes, I am on high alert when that instrument comes towards my knee. ☺

  14. mandy says:

    Oh my gosh, Van. I would never had imagined that ending! That was great! 😅

  15. Oh my gosh Val – I love that you fake the reflex! ❤
    Diana xo

  16. Oh and by Val I mean Van. (sawry) 😦 I wish I could edit my comments on others’ blogs!

  17. Amy says:

    I didn’t see that one coming. Wow, what a crazy experience. Holy cow. I guess we have come a long way but sadly there is always someone who takes it over the top.

  18. Oh, my! a venereal disease. I can only imagine what they were thinking, and it’s not good. Not at all.

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