This article is one of an 8-part series about Charlotte Fairbairn, and was written by our patron, John Fairbairn. To read the intro by the editor and see links to the other 7 parts of the story, refer to the Table of Contents page. On to the story—
On 01 April 1945, Charlotte returned home from the University of Virginia Hospital, supposedly “cured” of her mental issues. She was transported in Edward’s company car, free at last of the noisome mental and emotional burdens that had plagued her over the past three months. It was Easter Sunday, and the fragrance of new flowers, new leaves and grass, cherry trees in full bloom, the burgeoning of Spring, and warm sunshine of the Shenandoah Valley area all combined to work their magic and boost her morale. She arrived home so filled with joy, with her welcoming husband, finding there a smiling elder son and a beautiful, healthy baby. Alas, her joyous marriage was almost at an end.
By 08 April, Edward was confined at the University of Virginia Hospital in the Acute Illness Ward. He was suffering from an awful instance of bladder and kidney infection. That had been brought on by the passage of a kidney stone that lodged in his urethra. What no-one in that time knew was that he also was undergoing the middle stages of renal failure.
The infection was destroying the remaining function of both his kidneys. The doctors did manage to re-establish his urine flow. Penicillin was not available. After almost a month of Sulfa drug treatments, the infection finally yielded. On 06 May, he returned home with Charlotte, conveyed in the company car. This time, an O’Sullivan chauffeur drove.
The first successful documented kidney transplant in the United States was not performed until 17 June 1950, at a hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois.
On 02 June, Edward returned to the hospital, ostensibly for a post-release checkup. Charlotte’s sister Dorothy went with them. He was admitted immediately, with the doctors who had examined him telling Charlotte that he was desperately ill and that they had no hope for his case – acute kidney failure. There was no operation at that time that could save him. The first successful documented kidney transplant in the United States was not performed until 17 June 1950, at a hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois. Though the donated kidney eventually was rejected because no immunosuppressive therapy was available at the time – the development of effective anti-rejection drugs was years away – the relief gave the patient’s remaining damaged kidney a chance to partially heal and begin working again and she lived another five years before dying of an unrelated illness.
Edward Hoernlé Wood Fairbairn passed away quietly at 13:15 on 13 June 1945, with his beloved wife Charlotte attending him. He left behind a 7-year old son, a six-month-old babe in arms, a wife newly returned from an extensive childbirth trauma and recovery from mental anguish, and no income from investments or insurance. His sons were at the home of Florence, her eldest sister, with Ruth and her mother attending them. Edward’s funeral was in Evanston Illinois. Charlotte attended, and returned to Winchester on 18 June to a home now empty of the marital life and love that had graced it so completely.
When little things irk me, and I grow
Impatient with my dear ones, Lord let me
Know how, in a moment, Joy can take its flight,
And happiness be quenched in an endless night.
Keep this thought with me all the livelong day,
That I may guard against the harsh words I might say
When I would fret and grumble fiery hot
At trifles that tomorrow are forgot.
Lord let me remember how it would be
If these, my dear ones, were not here with me.
Edward H. W. Fairbairn
To his sister Janet
Next week, Charlotte will show us that she is made of stern stuff. Pulling herself up by her own bootstraps, she began the process of making a life for herself and her two boys.
Link to “Pulling on Bootstraps” to be published October 17, 2017