Monday, 28 April 2008

Jane replies to Fred

Your memories, Fred, are so much more vivid and detailed than mine. I wonder if that has anything to do with the age we were at when we were hospitalized? I was three when I was first diagnosed, and 8 when I left MHH.I'm particularly interested in how much you can remember of the layout of the place - my memories of this are really really vague and patchy, more like snatches of dreams than real places and events, and some of them via photos. 

I also had a rather interesting experience many years later, when a friend was in the Lord Mayor Treloare hospital near Alton, in Hampshire - not far from where I now live. It had been a military hospital, and before that a TB sanatorium. As soon as I walked in, the layout rang bells - there were floors with sparkling mica crystals in them, and long wards with verandahs...

I've always wondered whether my lack of a physical sense of the place was an effect of being in bed for so long at such a formative age - a bit like what you say of the effects on your eyesight. Maybe if you don't walk around anywhere for all those years, you just don't develop skills for finding your way about. Does anyone else have any ideas about this sort of thing?Your account of the contraption you were laid in, Fred, is fascinating - I remember some people with weights and pulleys, and children walking about with calipers. As a TB spine patient I was in a plaster bed, set up on a wooden frame; I remember others whose TB was in the upper spine, so they were in plaster beds including their heads, with their heads restrained by a sort of wooden bridge. So they couldn't lift their heads to see around. I have a vague memory of them wearing some kind of glasses to help them look downwards - am I inventing this?

As part of my delving for memories, I found a reference to a 1936 film about plaster beds at the Wellcome Foundation Library, and arranged to go and watch it. It was a training film, showing how to make plaster beds. It was quite a weird experience to watch it and I was glad there had to be a library staff member there to show me!Obviously, since we were growing kids, our plaster beds had to be remade to fit us every so often, and one of my most vivid memories is the unmistakable, sticky sickly smell of plaster of Paris as it was slathered onto bandages laid on my back, and the sensation of it shrinking to my shape as it dried.Part of the construction, of course, was a hole for the bum, below which bedpans could be placed, though when nurses were in a hurry this seemed a bit hit and miss sometimes!

This photo is taken from the Yorkshire Evening Post of 9th March 1948 and shows us having lessons from one of the nurses, out on the verandah. I am the one sitting on the left with bows in my hair. Does anyone else recognise themselves?

me with my mother

With my "Uncle Earnest" my godmother's husband and it was taken in 1948, two weeks before I was discharged

I do remember a verandah where they wheeled out our beds, in quite cold weather so we were all muffled up in coats and pixie hoods (very 1940s!). So there must have been one of those on the older girls' ward too. I'll try to post some photos that my parents took when they came to see me, and one of all us kids having lessons outside - on that balcony!

We also invented a clever sort of game you could play lying down. It involved throwing rubber balls up onto the sloping shades of the verandah (we weren't under them, but facing them) and catching them as they rolled back down. Of course some got lost, and you didn't always catch your own ball!

I also remember visits from Wilfred Pickles, and Christmas decorations and parties - the nurses did make a huge effort - but no film shows. We might find reports of them in the Yorkshire Post archives. I've enquired about these, but they aren't online, unfortunately. They're held in Leeds, so that's another one to go and view some time when I get up there. We listened to the radio a lot - no public telly in my day - Workers' Playtime and other record request programmes, including Children's Hour. We used to shout at the radio to make it play what we wanted. Sometimes it did! Magic!

My memory of visiting is quite like yours, Fred: visitors every two weeks, but if a visit fell on the first weekend of the month, it was postponed, so there was a 3-week gap - heaven knows why. When there was a chicken pox outbreak, we were all isolated, though in fact I didn't get chicken-pox until much later, and measles only as an adult. We also got nits a lot, and I remember having our hair shorn and shampooings with horrible carbolic shampoo.

I could go on and on, but will wait to respond to other people's memories

28 April 2008 07:25

No comments: