(A tribute and a lesson in three fictionalized vignettes. After the last, I'll give the historical context. The images are copyrighted by Radiology Centennial, Inc.)
Sister Hathaway turned from the linen she was folding. A tiny child stood in the doorway.
"We have someone to see you, Sister."
She smiled. A girl in a beautifully soft dress. Her father rested a hand on her shoulder. Hallway shadows draped his face.
"Come in. Please."
The hospital orderly escorted them into the room. The child's arm was wrapped in a sling. A doll was squeezed in the other. The father's severe face glared down.
"I see. I see."
Sister Hathaway knelt. She always knelt.
Such a darling girl. Her eyes quivered in terror.
"My name is Mary. What yours?"
The nun's voice was so soft. Mystical. It could make flowers sigh.
A calm overtook the child, and the grip on her doll loosened.
"Helen," she whispered.
"Such a beautiful name, Helen."
The child smiled for the first time.
"She fell on her arm," the father declared. "Playing."
Some of the child's smile straightened. Rivers of tears had washed through dirt on her face.
"Well, we're here to take a look inside," Sister Hathaway said. "With the most miraculous of machines."
A robed arm gestured to the table across the room. An alien mass of metal frames, tubes, and a strange black pyramid sat. The girl curled inward again.
"Come, let's take a look. I have some amazing to show you."
She replaced the father at the child's side and led her to a wooden chair. The girl could not resist the gentle guidance on her shoulder.
Sliding the metal frames to a petite height, she positioned an odd glass bulb, pear-shaped with plates inside. The child shrank away.
"It won't hurt you. Watch this."
The nun depressed a rocker button, and a hum filled the silence. She waved her hand very near the bulb.
"See? Nothing. Not even warm."
The girl edged closer.
"But there's magic to see. Here."
She handed the girl the pyramid. Grasping a handle, the girl saw a viewing port in the small end. The wider side housed a screen.
"Go ahead. Look inside."
With the nun's help, the girl pointed the screen in the direction of the bulb. A glow of spectral green grew. It sparkled in random patterns. Almost alive.
"This is a fluoroscope," the nun said.
Something new emerged on the screen. Not clear. But moving.
"A little closer."
The girl saw the wispy shadow of a hand, but the bones showed darker. A skeleton danced in the green light. Its black ring seemed to float above the bones.
The girl gasped. "Does it hurt?" she asked. Wonder bloomed in her voice.
"No. Not at all. It's an amazing kind of light. Very special. I believe it's a gift from God."
She waved with her bones a while longer until the child begged to try.
Sister Hathaway positioned her quickly. The excitement soothed away the pain in arm.
"Now, we can see if your bones are safe."
She raised the pyramid to her own eyes and studied the green light. Satisfied, she cut the power.
"There. Perfect. It must be a bruise, dear. Nothing is broken."
Late that night in the solitude of her room, Sister Hathaway woke from red, churning dreams. Pain burrowed in her hand. Deep and ominous. She rubbed and rubbed.
The white patches on her skin began to burn.
On to Part 2.