In fourth grade, I was the girl with the warts. The prior summer, while swimming in the local creek, I had played with some little frogs and was convinced by my brothers that they were the cause of the little cauliflower bumps that graced my knees, elbows, and hands that school year. By the time I was taken to the doctor, mine didn’t magically disappear as in my brothers’ cases, I had over fifty of these ugly bumps on my skin and more were appearing on a daily basis. My mother was concerned, you know the look, and took me to see our family physician, Dr. Ball. The recommended treatment was to burn them all off during one visit so there were no warts left behind that could spread and create more warts. I think we knew that warts were caused by a virus, not amphibians, by then, but the treatment plan seemed harsh by today’s standards especially for a ten-year old. Dr. Ball would burn them all except for a really massive on my right knee. I would have to go to a specialist in Wichita and have the big one removed by freezing it to death with liquid nitrogen. My mother took off work to take me on a school day to have the first set burned off. I had no idea what to expect and had not asked any questions as innocent children are prone to do.
The steps in burning off warts in 1970 included first using a needle to inject some local anesthesia into the area around the wart, then he slipped a small metal plate under my leg (it grounded me) and then he used a gun-like device with a hot tip to cauterized the wart, leaving behind an open sore not unlike a cigarette burn. He covered each sore with an antiseptic solution and a band-aid and continued this process until he had removed every one of the little buggers except for the biggin on my knee. I didn’t cry until it was all over when I realized just how many band-aids I had all over my little body as well as the first hint of a searing sensation emittIng from each sore. Mom cried too and she gave me a hug and took me home to share this terrible experience with the not so sympathetic males that lived with us at 321 N. Main. I remember they counted the bandages to make sure I wasnt exaggerating.
In a couple of weeks it was my Dad’s turn to take me to Wichita to the specialist. Once again, one of us kids required a parental unit to miss work. I don’t know how they did it with four kids and both working full-time. Well, I do know how they did it and it was a lot of sacrifice and hard work. This trip I asked lots of questions beforehand. Not so innocent anymore. The procedure wasn’t too bad; it was the aftermath that was hell. The procedure involved carefully pouring out the freezing agent onto swabs and then applying to the area around the massive wart. Oh, yeah, he did the deadening trick first with the needle and it hurt quite a bit but the nitrogen was just super cold on my flesh. He also applied a big bandage and sent me on my way back home. Dad took me to a nice restaurant for lunch but in the middle of the meal, the deadening effect wore off and my knee stung so much that I couldn’t sit still. It hurt all the way home and I remember my dad trying to comfort me but it was a long car ride home for both of us. The area just seemed to sluff off over the next few days.
I thought the worst was behind me and I celebrated no longer being the wart girl. A week or so later, I woke up for school and didn’t feel well but Mom sent me off to class because I didn’t have a fever. I remember sitting at my little wooden desk and feeling worse and worse. After recess, I noticed that my groin and leg were throbbing. I finally complained to my teacher and she sent me to the school nurse. The nurse checked me out and decided she needed to see my leg so she had me remove my pants. We both noticed a weird cherry red line traveling from the top of my knee headed straight to my groin; the same leg that had the massive wart just a few days prior.
Immediately telephone calls were made and I was whisked back to Dr. Ball’s office. The treatment this time was three days bed rest, I wasn’t allowed to move the leg or I would have to be put in the hospital, heavy antibiotics, and regular cleansing with hydrogen peroxide — the stuff that bubbles when It comes in contact with nasty stuff. While this was a drag, I began to feel better almost immediately after the first dose of antibiotic.
The treatment worked, I returned to school, my parents returned to work and my leg was intact to jump rope and run again. My body still has the scars from my wart girl days but they have faded and are symbolic of a childhood filled with the misadventure and fortitude of a good Kansas girl. I never had a wart again.