Friday, August 6, 2010


It was the summer of year 1954 at Camp Na Sho Pa. in Bloomingburg NY. When I was 15 years old, I dormed in Alderbrook, an old farm house for CIT's (Counselor in Training). The dorm had about four rooms consisting of three girls in a room.

Little children ages two to four years old were on the second floor with four counselors. Among the little tots, was a two year old ill with Asthma. How her mother sent this child to sleep a way camp was puzzling to us. The camp mother who did not bargain for this job was with the baby most of the time. We did not have too much contact with the children in the dorm as we had teenage activities that took us away from them.

It was a day that changed my perspective of human nature and a day to be tested.  It was also a day when I first met my husband although we were strangers until a few years later.. We acquainted ourselves with our new camp friends on the first day. There was a dissatisfaction among some of the girls because one of them had a deformity, one of which was never seen before by any of us. Some of the girls refused to share their dorm with her. Some threatened to call their parents to take them home.

At first I, too, was uncomfortable, but found it fascinating watching that beautiful faced teenager applying lipstick on her lips, using her hands attached to her arms. Having no forearms, Lenore was a Thalidomide baby. When her mother was pregnant, her doctor prescribed the miracle cure for “morning sickness." The drug was also used  as a sedative to help patients sleep.  Unfortunately many doctors all over the world prescribed this drug to pregnant women.leaving many babies deformed. The drug was banned for many years until recently making it useful as a powerful cancer fighter.

Lenore warmed up to us quickly. She wasted little time being friendly.  We decided to invite her to share our room. She became one of us doing everything we did.  I could not get over how she polished her toenails perfectly. Besides being intelligent, Lenore had good typing skills, along with a cheerful and witty personality. Her good looks reminded us of Doris Day.  Whenever she walked into a room with her smiley face, the whole room lit up. Her handicap did not restrict her in anything we did as far as I can remember. She was one of us and was a lot of fun

Lenore had a lot of self confidence despite her handicap.  She wore beautiful rings on all  her fingers.  Around her wrists she wore beautiful bracelets.  Lenore was lucky, as other babies had  only one or two fingers along with deformed feet.
Through the years we separated like many of our camp friends. We all had different paths in our future. About ten years ago, Lenore found me in Florida as I had recently moved to an adult community. We got together with our husbands on several occasions and kept in touch. Lenore worked at the Bethesda Memorial hospital in Boynton Beach, Fl. in the records department. She was a dear friend and  an asset to me when my mother passed away there.

Lenore and I caught up almost fifty years of our lives with our experiences and hardships. Although handicapped, she took care of her older sister who became a drug addict, eventually placing her in a nursing home and later taking care of her burial. She took care of her aging parents until she found good  nursing homes for them and eventually handled their burials as well. How ironic, as I remember her family all too well when they came up to camp on visiting day. Her parents were very attractive,  looking like movie stars. Her older sister was prettier than her parents. I could tell then  by the way they treated her, that Lenore was a disappointment to them.  However they loved her dearly, and in the end, Lenore was the strongest of all and survived everyone..

Due to the economy and their retirement, they were forced to sell their house which was not too far from us. They moved  about three hours away.. She missed her old friends in Boynton Beach, however found a life for herself  and her husband Don,  making new friends and volunteering in a school teaching English as a second language.

Every year Lenore always called me on my birthday and I  wished her a happy birthday as well.  Her  birthday was a day after mine. This year, since I did not hear from her, I sent her a Birthday Greeting on Face Book.  When I did not see a response from her I went into her profile page to see comments of other well wishers.

Face Book is a wonderful web site. It brings old friends and families together after years  of being apart. I heard of an adopted child finding her mother on Face book, or the other way around. But who would think I would find an old friend on Face book deceased without being told first.  She passed away about 20 days prior to her birthday.   It was shocking and devastating.

Lenore, you will be missed.

For those who have never seen a Thalidomide baby


Dick Snyder said...

Thanks for writing that. With all of the terrible things that have happened over the past decades, the Thalidomide incident has become an obscure memory.

Iris Shapiro said...

Dick, I appreciate your comment.

We must never forget to ask questions with our doctor pertaining to his medical prescriptions. We must always remember to question if the meds he prescribes have been tested on pregnant women or anyone else for that matter whatever the drug., Those docs had no clue when they prescribed Thalidomide. They never researched it. How dare they blindly prescribe meds to anyone without researching throughly

Anonymous said...


I was a good friend of Lenore's from Bethesda for over 20 years. I click on her facebook page every now and then to see if anyone has written anything touching about her death. This is beautiful, what you have wrote. It is so Lenore. Despite her handicaps, there was nothing she couldn't do. And yes, wasn't it amazing how she could type, had such beautiful handwriting, and took such good care of herself? And her jewelry, you are so right! She always wore so many rings and bracelets. I miss her, and fear I will continue missing her more and more as the months/years go on.

I send you sympathy in your grief, I cannot imagine losing such an old friend and reading about it on facebook. Best wishes and good health to you - Beth Hacker.

Iris Shapiro said...

Dear Beth,

It was very sweet of you to comment about Lenore. So many people called to speak to me about her, but it is nice when others comment on my web site so they too can share their feelings.

Thank you very much for expressing your sympathy and I too wish you good health.


joseph salowitz said...

very interesting. With current FDA supervision, a bad medicine is unlikely to reach the public.

Pat Snyder said...

Dear Iris: That was a beautiful eulogy you did for Lenore. She was a wonderful lady with a fantastic humor which I will miss so much. I was prescribed Benedictin in 1977 for pregnancy anti-nausea and threw that up. Nothing stayed down for the first five months. Lenore didn't let anything stop her. She was so amazing.

Iris said...

Dear Pat,

I appreciated your comment regarding Lenore. Did you know her from Boynton Beach or from where she lived recently?

Our bodies sometimes if we are lucky, reject what is not good for us. It was a good thing you rejected Benedictin.


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