Good Morning Doctor! - Chapter 52
No birthday party, even though it be part of a clinic, is complete without a birthday cake. And mine was no exception. Yet I believe the story of my birthday cake is a little out of the ordinary.
It began more than twenty years ago when I answered a telephone call at midnight. Dr. McDanell was calling from his home in Nashua: his little daughter was sick and would I take the train over in the morning to see what I could do? I asked the symptoms. He told me.
"Acute appendicitis?" I asked.
I wasn't waiting for any train if that was the trouble. I got my driver and together we went the twenty miles to Nashua, facing a blizzard from the northwest with the thermometer at eighteen below zero. Arriving, I found that the little girl did have acute appendicitis, and I thanked God that I had made the trip when I did instead of waiting until morning.
I suggested to the doctor that we operate immediately; so we got ready. And with a colleague of the doctor to give the anaesthetic and the colleague's wife to assist, I removed the children's appendix which was very acutely inflamed. We were all done by five o'clock. The child rallied nicely and made a fine recovery.
Both Dr. and Mrs. McDannell thanked me again and again, and in the years that have followed they have shown their gratitude in countless ways. But to me the most touching is Mrs. McDannell's remembrance for each birthday. An excellent cook, and truly an artist in frosting and decorating food, she bakes for me each January fifth a birthday cake. At first, when my clinics were smaller, the cake was more of a family-size creation. As the clinics grew so did the cakes, until in later years they have become culinary masterpieces of design as well as of taste. Sometimes they have been tiered, sometimes a number of smaller cakes artistically grouped, always beautifully frosted in color, often enhanced by living flowers wreathed at the base. Always there have been candles, and the right number; always there was enough for everyone even though in the later years more than one hundred guests were served.
After we got the Boy Scout Troop established here, it was the happy privilege of a group of those boys to present the birthday cake at the clinic dinner.
These years, when my health has made it unwise to hold a clinic, Mrs. McDannell hasn't forgotten me. Each year the cake comes, clinic or no clinic. This year she quite outdid herself, making me a little Hansel and Gretel cookie house, an enchanting creation which served as the centerpiece of the children's table at my family birthday party.