A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 118: Our Fragile Life

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So far I have reviewed the past about events which happened and more or less affected my life. But one thing not mentioned was health. I am glad in a way, because as the saying goes, no news is good news.

The near fatal accident when I was still a youngster, falling into a cast iron laundry cooking pot, had really nothing to do with health. Or the time I borrowed my aunt's bicycle, and pretty near choked in the mud, also was no health problem as far as I was concerned. Never saw a doctor.

The first time I came in contact with the medical profession was for a toothache. This was in my teens at about age 14. I got some teeth pulled and some filled. At that time, pulling a tooth was not as bad as filling. If you waited long enough until the pain became unbearable, you did not care if it hurt a little more to get it yanked out. But filling, oh boy, the drill got so hot. I remember going up and down with the drill and thinking at the same time, it must have been Big Red or Satan his brother who invented this weapon of torture, the heat of hell was built right into it.

Later, on the ship to Canada, I got a toothache coming up. We did have a person on board who promised he could fix me. True to his word, he did fix me. It turned out to be the root of a rotten molar which had broken off when the dentist pulled that one long ago. It became infected and really was hurting now. The man explained, this piece or pieces had to be dug out and would hurt some, because he did have no ether or anything which would make it painless. Ok Doc, see what you can do. If I never had experienced pain, this was the day I found what it felt like. He started digging in to it which felt first like a meat hook at the sorest spot in my whole body. Deeper and deeper he dug until I passed out, but only for a second or so, then the gruelling pain woke me up again, this was repeated several times until he finally quit the torture and told me he had it all out.

Then in 1950, when we were working for Dr. Motlong, one morning he and I went to Kenora for some business, in the afternoon being back in Sioux Narrows, I got another terrible toothache. Doc, who had been a dentist in Rochelle, Illinois, knew about those things, I figgered, so I asked if he would pull the rascal out. He refused, then I begged him to please pull it without painkiller. He said take the truck and go to town. So I did, but this was 80 km one way and another hour of throbbing in my mouth, then again 80 km return with a swollen kisser. Oh well, like the man said, it's all in a day's work. Indeed a whole day's work.

Three years later in Fort Frances, I was having a sore throat, it bothered me so much I paid the local doctor a visit. He said, "Open wide." He came to the conclusion my tonsils were giving me trouble. Why did they give me trouble? I did nothing to offend them as far as I knew. Now what, doc? He said, "We have to wait until they are healed, then they have to come out". Okay, you are the doctor, Doc. It made me wonder though, if he took them out and I didn't have no need for them, why did the good Lord implant them in my throat in the first place? But who was I to question anyone on this subject. When the swelling went down, I went back for the operation.

When the day came, the doc put me in a chair, then explained that he's gonna give me a needle. "Hold on, Doc, I don't need a needle, if you give needles away, give one to my wife. The clothing store she was working for bragged about her over the radio as the best needle worker in town." Of course, the town of Fort Frances was not that big, population around 8,000. However, I knew long ago, she was and still is the best seamstress.

Anyway, the needle the doctor was talking about was a hollow one with some serum in it that would make his job a lot safer, insofar as I didn't bite off his delicate fingers when he started operating. He said, "I'm gonna freeze the tonsils, so it does not hurt when I snip them out". "Snip them out?" I asked. "Yes, I have to open it up, then put a wire loop around it, and pull the trigger which will sever the cords that hold them in."

It went much easier than I expected. The cutting was totally devoid of pain. Only when he pulled the trigger and snapped the loop, there was a sharp pain for a split second. The nurse showed me the culprit. It made me think of spaghetti and meat balls. I asked the nurse what she would do with them. She said they would dispose of them. "Can I take them with me, cook them and pretend it is a delicacy? They look so good!" The Doctor charged me $25.00. "Pay me when you can." About a month later, we cleared the bill.


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