Little information was available at this time, but the facts were that the circus had arrived in Detroit that morning with several ailing performers and workers aboard the four Ringling Bros. trains. The Health Department was called in and determined that the illness was typhoid fever.
Locating a suitable care facility was of paramount importance. The pavilions at Herman Kiefer Hospital did not have enough space to accommodate more than a few of the several afflicted, so Harper was asked to open its unused space in order to centralize and segregate the typhoid population.
The next morning, Monday, the cafeteria was still buzzing with the rare news: Typhoid in the circus - and Harper Hospital was chosen to treat it! While Jan was still eating, Rose came in with her tray and rushed over to Jan. "Lucky you!" she exclaimed. You're going up to 5 Hudson to be with the circus folks!"
"What do you mean?" Jan gasped. I'm in OPD this month."
"No, it's on the assignment board. You're posted to 5 Hudson."
Just outside the cafeteria there is a bulletin board. Every Monday morning any changes of assignment are posted there and all nurses check this regularly to be sure to report to the correct floor or ward. On this day Jan had not checked it herself, knowing she still had three weeks scheduled at the clinic. So she dashed out to check the list, and sure enough she was being sent to 5 Hudson!
Taking the elevator she rose to the fifth floor and reported to the head nurse in a temporary office set up in a small room near the entrance to the wing. She was told that recruiting an adequate staff of graduate nurses from the other floors had created a problem and that the nursing supervisor had then turned to the roster of student nurses who had completed their training in communicable diseases. As it turned out Jan was the only student who qualified with this special experience among those who were neither on vacation nor affiliation.
The days that followed were busy ones. All the performers with typhoid had been admitted to the third floor. Among them were some members of the Wallenda high wire troupe. Jan did not get to meet any of the performers because she was on 5 Hudson where the service people of the circus were being cared for: animal tenders, cooks, barkers, maintenance men.
For eight hours each day, in addition to routine hygienic care, Jan was involved with cold packs, urging fluids, feeding the weaker patients, watching everyone for signs of the dreaded intestinal perforations which might occur, and in disinfecting procedures. All of this of course must be done while observing isolation techniques, to protect themselves as workers and not to carry any of the dangerous bacili away from the ward.
Since recovery begins as early as the third week after symptoms first appear, the staff began to see some of the patients being discharged. A representative for the circus served as liaison and made arrangements for each individual to be transported to wherever the circus was currently showing, as he or she was pronounced fit for travel.
Some of the most severe cases were still patients when Jan was called to the nursing office to be told that she must complete the Out Patient experience now, to be ready for her assignment that autumn in Obstetrics and Nursery.
Jan's photo as it appeared on the cover of the January, 1934
issue of THE MICHIGAN NURSE.
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