By Ralphine Major
In Memphis, Carol and Perry McGinnis had each other and a dream. They had little else—not even a car! Perry rode Memphis city buses to school; Carol rode them to work. But over time, things changed.
It was July of 1959 and the last school quarter before graduation in September. Perry’s dental class had played a softball game the night before, and Carol was in the stands watching. “It was 2:00 a.m. the following morning when she awakened me with her news that labor had begun,” Perry said. By then, the young family finally had a car. They loaded Carol’s things in it and headed to the hospital, making a quick stop for gas on the way. Barron, their first son, was born at 6:30 a.m. Their precious baby thrived for two or three weeks. “We had brought Barron home to Knoxville at a few weeks of age to show him off to the grandparents,” Perry said. “As we were preparing to drive back to Memphis, Carol recalls sitting in a rocker at my mother and dad’s feeding Barron when he experienced his first ‘projectile’ vomiting that went several feet behind them onto the wall. By the time we arrived back in Memphis, he had been able to keep very little, if any, milk down.” Doctors could not immediately diagnose the problem, and little Barron continued to be dehydrated and lose weight.
“Carol got out Dr. Spock’s book and made her diagnosis of pyloric stenosis, but the doctors couldn’t confirm what she believed to be the problem,” the future dentist said. At six weeks of age, the baby’s condition worsened. The doctors ordered a second round of x-rays. “We were in the room during those x-rays, and the doctors had Carol trying to feed Barron during the procedure so as to allow them to better see what was happening. She wore a heavy lead apron which, for her small size, dragged the floor and weighted her down so that she could hardly move,” Perry added. This time, when the pediatrician palpated the baby’s stomach his diagnosis was—pyloric stenosis. The first-time mother was right. It sounded like something serious facing the young family—and it was.
“This was a congenital condition most often found in the first born male in a family whereby the initial portion of the small intestine developed a ring of excessive muscle. This enlarged and spastic muscle prevented food from passing from the stomach,” Perry explained. I can only imagine how terrifying it was to have this illness attack one so small. “Surgery for the little guy was successful and we finally were able to relax after several days of fear for our son’s survival,” he shared.
Though far from their home near Knoxville, they were fortunate to have family nearby. “Carroll McGinnis (Perry’s cousin) and his wife, Reba, were in Memphis at the time. Carol and Carroll always joked about the ‘other’ Carol/Carroll,” Perry said. “Carroll was in medical school at the University of Tennessee, and Reba was gracious to help us watch after Barron. Dr. Carroll McGinnis practiced medicine for many years in Knoxville and St. Mary’s, and he and Reba are now retired.”
September brought more significant events to the McGinnis family. (In the following weeks, the blessings continue in Memphis for the young family of three.)