Jean and Gerard (1961)

Disclaimer: The choice of words used in this story may not reflect current Capper Foundation inclusive language and views.

Jean and Gerard (1961)

by Jean Smith

We were born on September 20, 1961 at 6-½ months. Actual due date was December 8, 1961. Dr. Darrell Weber was our family doctor. He had told Mom and Dad (Sally & Carvan Smith) that he would rather deliver the baby at 6-½ months than 6 months, because the baby would have a better survival rate.

When Mom went into labor, Dad and our next-door neighbor Opal Hart drove her to St Francis Hospital. The labor and delivery room nurse was a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth. She told Dr. Weber that Mom was going to have twins. And he said that he only heard one heartbeat. She told him again Mom was going to have twins.

I was born at 12:15 pm and Jerry was born at 12:19 pm. I weighed 2 pounds 15 ounces and was 16 inches long. Jerry weighed 3 pounds 3 ounces and was 16 inches long.

When Mom was on bed rest, she prayed to St. Gerard Majella who is the patron saint of expectant mothers. Mom said if they had a boy, they would name him Gerard. Mom and Dad did not have a girl’s name picked out. One of the nurses suggested Jean Marie (that was her daughter’s name) and then you could call them Jeanne and Jerry. And that is what they did.

Dr. Weber called in doctors Crouch and Parman who were pediatricians to check Jerry and me over. They told Mom and Dad that your little boy will survive. We give your little girl 48 hours. If she makes it through the first 48 hours she will survive, and I did.

Drs. Crouch and Parman called in Dr. Stock, the eye doctor, to check out our eyes. Dr. Stock told Mom and Dad that your little girl’s eyes were okay but your little boy is blind in his right eye. The retina is detached from the eye. He said he could do surgery to attach the retina back to the eye but there was a chance he could go blind in his left eye also. Mom and Dad decided not to have the surgery. Jerry gets along fine, he drives, and he has been working since after his 6th or 7th grade year.

The story continues with me. I have been told that Dad noticed when I was 9 months old that I was not using my right arm and leg like I used my left arm and leg. So, they talked to Drs. Crouch and Parman who said they had two places they wanted Mom and Dad to check out. First, they wanted them to go to the March of Dimes office. So, they went there and met with a case manager. The case manager said that since my birth defect was not spotted right after birth, they could not help Mom and Dad out. So, Mom and Dad went back to tell Drs. Crouch and Parman what March of Dimes had told them. The doctors told Mom and Dad the second place we want you to go is Capper Foundation for Crippled Children. So, from the time I was 9 months until I turned 21 years old, Mom and Dad got help from Capper and Kansas Crippled Children’s Association.

I do not remember when we (Mom & me) started to see the orthopedic doctors. They had clinicals at Capper or Stormont Vail Emergency rooms. I remember the last time I went to the clinicals; I was 16 years old. We saw the new orthopedic doctor, Dr. Thurston. I remember him looking right at Mom and asking her if I should have another heel cord surgery. Mom told Dr. Thurston that I was old enough to say yes or no to another surgery. So, I asked him what the chances were if I ended up with a floppy foot. He told us a 50/50 chance of the surgery working. I decided not to have the surgery. Then he said our best bet would be a night brace. It would help keep my foot from turning inward. So, my oldest brother took me to Petro’s to get fitted for the brace. I wore it for a year. When I saw Dr. Donald Hobbs at the office, he asked how things were going. I told him I was wearing the brace at night and he told me to stop wearing it. It was doing more harm than good. So, I stopped wearing it.

When I was four years old, I went to Capper for preschool. My Mom and twin brother Jerry would drop me off at Capper and Mom would take Jerry to the zoo or Gage Park to play. Before they came back to pick me up sometimes, they would go to Woolworth’s and get a drink. I remember the big preschool room; it was at the west end of the building. I can see me being the teacher’s little helper. And I can also still see me pushing either Michelle Campbell or Karen Johnson in their homemade wheelchair (it was painted sage green) down the hallway to the gym. I always thought it was pretty cool for a 4-year-old pushing her classmate through the halls of Capper.

Mrs. Hughes and her assistant Connie Obergon met with Mom and Dad before preschool ended and told them I would be mainstreamed because my disability was not as severe as some of my classmates. Jerry and I went to Lundgren for Kindergarten, Assumption for grade school and Hayden High School.

In January of 1968, Dr. Robert Payne, the new doctor in the Orthopedic Group did the heel cord surgery on my right leg to lengthen the heel cord. I missed three months of school.

I remember going to PT and OT at Capper from the time I got my cast off until about fourth grade. The physical therapists showed Mom and Dad exercises they could help me with and ones I could do by myself. The occupational therapists told Mom and Dad not to baby me and Jerry. We should do everything the three older brothers did. They make sure that Jerry and I did everything those three older brothers did. And to please let Jean try to do things, if she needs help, she’ll ask for it.

Dad always stretched my right leg and my little foot filled perfectly in his big hand. I always gave him Friday nights off from stretching my leg. My Mom was the best at stretching my right arm. She could bring me up on my tippy toes.

In September of 1980 I filled out an application to work at Long John Silvers. To this day I thank my best friend DeAnna Stallbaumer-Evans for helping me get that job where I worked until March 1983. From February 1983 through September 2013 I was the receptionist for Assumption Catholic Church. From September 2013 through May 2017 I was the receptionist at Catholic Charities. I have been on SSDI since November 2017.

In January 2018, my friend Sr Marjorie asked me if I could and would volunteer to help at Corita’s Corner Sandwich Ministry. I said “Yes” because she was needing help entering data into the computer and I also helped hand out sack lunches to the needy. I worked there until December 2019.

Since January 2020, I have been working part time at the Pad Restaurant and I’m loving it!!!!