Bonnie Shell's Life Stories

How did your parents pick your name?

I'm not sure where the name Bernadine came from. I assumed that because my dad's name was Bernard, I was the female version of "junior."

My middle name was supposed to be Mary after both Grandmas, but the doctor changed it to Josephine because his name was Joseph. He had a lot of nerve to change it, and because of him, I almost died.

I asked my mom why she didn't change it back to Mary, and she said, "Well, you had to be called something." With all this confusion, everybody called me Bonnie until I went to school. I have no idea where that nickname originated.

The doctor, who in these days would have been sued for malpractice, prescribed a formula that did not agree with me. When my mom told him I was constantly throwing up, he just blew it off. I was losing weight rapidly instead of gaining weight like most babies. My parents took me to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and they said there was nothing they could do. I was doomed to die.

They finally decided to take me to see Dr. Mirabella, my father's family doctor. He said there was still a light in my eyes and hoped I would get better. They said that the formula I was on had salt in it, and it ate my stomach lining. I was admitted to Mother Cabrini Hospital and was being fed intravenously. I was in the hospital for several months. When I gained a pound, all the hospital staff cheered.

When I left the hospital, I was fed goat's milk. It was not readily available at the local grocery store, but there was a dairy on the corner where my dad transferred buses after work, and he could get it there.

Dr. Salvatore Mirabella was an older man who was very grandfatherly. He was bald on top and had this wonderful handlebar mustache. When I would come in for a checkup, he would bounce me on his knee and give me a big smile and a hug. I was never afraid of him. I was his miracle baby.

I think God saved my life so I could do some good. I didn't do anything earth-shattering, but I tried to be a good friend and listened to a lot of people's problems. Maybe that was my job in life.‚Äč