When a young girl picks nursing as her career, her family and friends are apt to warn her what a strenuous future lies ahead. If she's on night "floating" duty, assigned to whatever section of the hospital is most busy, they begin to shake their heads. If she commutes 49 miles round-trip from Great Barrington to Pittsfield General Hospital five nights a week, they say "only a youngster could take it."
This is not too unusual a story in itself, but in the case of Linda Wheeler it is truly remarkable, for a year and a half ago she was seriously ill. "It's lucky I was in training at the time," she recalls. "No one knows what would have happened if blood transfusions hadn't been right at hand.
"At the time (September 1963) I was a senior student at Bishop Memorial but was in Boston for a 13-week course in pediatrics at Boston Floating Hospital and completely unaware there was anything the matter with me.
"Suddenly one Friday night I started hemorrhaging, about as seriously as you can, I guess, for I've been told I'd lost over two pints of blood before the endless transfusions were started." When asked how many transfusions she received before stomach surgery finally cured her, she said: "I don't really know. I lost count after 34." For a girl like Linda, 34 pints of blood amounts to every drop being replaced more than three times!
"Naturally I'm very happy to be honorary chairman — although I'm not sure exactly what it means — for the next visit of the Red Cross bloodmobile. No one has to tell me how important this program is.
"I remember one scary night in Boston. My blood type is AB-positive, which is pretty rare, and the hospital was down to just three pints. I knew I'd need more than that before morning. I still don't know exactly what steps the Red Cross took, but I do know the hospital was restocked and I'm here to prove the supply didn't run out."
Linda's blood type is indeed rare; only 4 out of 100 blood donors are AB-positive. Since Linda was a Berkshire County resident at the time she was so ill in Boston, a special drive among her fellow students at Bishop Memorial, PGH, and GE employees was held to replace the blood she had needed from the Boston Red Cross Center. She also received five pints through Dow Air Force Base in Maine, where her cousin was stationed, and some from Boston Floating Hospital employees.