The Watermelon Girl

The medical field has come a long way since leeches and bloodletting were a common technique to treat certain ills of the body. We should be grateful that we live in a time that is, relatively speaking, more advanced in prescribing cures that will help us to heal whatever ails us. But even in the recent past, it was not always so.

One of our young ancestors, my wife’s first cousin, Donna Marie Del Colliano, found herself in the national spotlight at a tender age. She had been diagnosed with nephrosis (a kidney disease) about a year previously. When her doctors determined that watermelon juice might help her condition, her parents tried to acquire the fruit, but in New Jersey it proved to be unavailable at the time. They made a public appeal and a local politician was able to locate a supply in Florida which he had flown to Jersey.

By now, the eyes of the country were watching the progress of “the Watermelon Girl” and, for a time, she appeared to be improving. Unfortunately, in September of 1953 she was found in a coma. Though she was put into an oxygen tent, her condition continued to decline and she died a few hours later from nephrosis and anemia. She was five years old.

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I spent much of yesterday sitting in a hospital room with an ailing patient. It reminded me that of all the places I’d rather not be as a healthy man, a hospital tops the list. However, should a medical emergency ever befall me, a hospital is the only place I’d want to go.

The first time I can recall being in the emergency room, I was in high school. Following a brilliant play of my design, I was all set to score a touchdown in an intramural football game when I stepped full stride into a gopher hole. My foot lodged and the momentum of my body did the rest. The result? My hip bone was no longer connected to… well, anything else.

After being ignobly carried by my teammates (through the girls’ gymnasium to my teenaged chagrin) to the school nurse’s office, I was then rushed onto an ambulance for a quick ride to the hospital. Guys in white coats rushed to the vehicle, rushed me onto a gurney, rushed me into the hospital, and there I began the interminable wait to be treated. With no rooms to be had, I was pushed up against the wall where, I was convinced, I was promptly forgotten.

At one point a young nun came to stand beside my gurney. Never having been in this situation before, I politely asked if she was “my nun.” I didn’t know. I thought maybe every patient was assigned one. She quickly moved on.

As it turns out, I eventually got the treatment I needed. Bones and ligaments healed – and healed so completely that to this day I cannot even remember which leg it was that got injured. It was restored to its original form. So I guess I have to be thankful to the doctors that tended to me.

Just as I am thankful to the dedicated individuals of Leesburg Regional Hospital Emergency Department. Professional, caring, compassionate, and friendly, they made a trying situation tolerable and a unpleasant event almost pleasurable. Well done.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit