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Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015

Typhoid Mary

Saturday, March 22, 2008

In 1907 health officials showed up at the doorstep of one Mary Mallory. They took her to a doctor's office where they ran a series of tests. It had been determined that each family she had worked for as a cook, sickness soon followed. She earned the dubious distinction of being known as "Typhoid Mary."

I think I know how Mary must have felt as she watched people around her get typhoid fever. Last week we took a long awaited fishing trip to the warmer climates of the south. The night before the two sons and a guest were to go, I felt a tickling in my throat. Knowing that it was a 937 mile drive to the Mexican border, I armed myself with cough syrup, Zicam, and any other remedies I could think of. Sure enough, as we loaded up on Saturday morning, the illness grew worse. By the time we crossed the Oklahoma border, my nose was starting to run, and I was sure that I was turning into a modern "Typhoid Mary."

After a long day's drive, we stayed overnight in San Antonio. I begged off eating any supper, took a hot bath, swallowed some more medicine, and curled up under the covers trying to fight off the chills. Meanwhile, the other three travelers, unaware of their impending fate, had gone to the River Walk in San Antonio, dined well, and were looking forward to the rest of the trip. By the time we got to McAllen, Texas, to wait on the van driver who was taking us to Mexico, I was reduced to lying on the grassy strip of the airport parking lot and telling my companions to wake me when our ride had arrived. I crawled into the back seat of the van and snuffled and coughed my way into Mexico.

By now I am sure the rest of them were wondering, "Who is next?" It didn't take long to find out. On our first morning of fishing, RC Campbell, our other companion, began getting sick. By noon, it was all we could do to get him out of the boat. He promptly went to bed for 24 hours, trying to shake the bug I had given him. After two days of not eating, he managed to get back into the fishing action end by the last day was hitting his stride once again.

There had been some discussion about getting surgical masks for all of us to keep from infecting other people but we were afraid we might have trouble with the border crossing. On the last day we fished, our guide was sniffling and blowing his nose. Now he and his five children had the prospect of illness sweeping through their family. Last year, we joked about Montezuma's revenge; I'm afraid this year it was the gringos turn to carry sickness south of the border.

Dick Hedges
Fort Scott Community College