Thursday, 22 May 2008

Brian Skitt recalls his time in MHH from 1938 to 1942

My Name is Brian Skitt, born 24th June 1936.

When I was two years old (about Sept 1938) I was diagnosed with TB of the spine and after spending a short time in Leeds General Infirmary for tests I was transferred to the Marguerite Hepton Hospital Thorp Arch. I remained in the hospital until October 1942 after a stay of 4 years.

The treatment for TB in those days was to lie perfectly still and be wheeled out onto the open fresh air in all weather conditions. To this end I was strapped to a frame to avoid body movement.

During the latter part of my stay I underwent lengthy surgery to remove the damaged part of the vertebrae and to undergo a lengthy process of bone grafting. I have a scar from between the shoulder blades to the base of the spine. The surgeon at Marguerite Hepton Hospital was Mr Payne (Broomhead & Payne at Leeds Infirmary).

In the wartime years it was very difficult to get to the hospital by public transport as Thorp Arch is in a remote area, there was full rationing and visitors were only allowed one a month.  My own mother had to get 3 buses to get to Boston Spa and then have a long walk to the hospital.   This was a period when many fathers were serving in the forces.

Monday, 19 May 2008

MH Hospital Layout

This layout is partly from memory but thanks to Cynthia for filling in some of the gaps. Click on the image for an enlargement.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Why can't we remember the names of other patients?

I thought I was odd because I couldn't remember the names of other patients who were in MHH with me, but I've begun to notice that I'm not alone - several bloggers have mentioned it, and I find it quite interesting. Because Ann Shaw has been running the Craig-y-Nos blog now for some years (see the link at the side) I mentioned it to her, and she has found that:

Not remembering names is very common. It is rare to come across anyone who can reel off names of people they knew in hospital as children. I had one the other day and I was amazed. She could remember 20 names of girls she was in with.

I think this must be part of how we children coped dealt with this whole experience. I think kids are amazingly resilient and tend to accept what they find as perfectly normal, but presumably when we came out of hospital, it would become clear that it was very different from the home world.
I mentioned Ann's view in an email a little while ago, and Harry made this very interesting comment, from Malcolm I think:

Ann is quite correct. I recall nothing of the other boys and although I can remember a few things some of the nureses did, this is because such acts were out of the norm. I remember absolutely nothing of what anyone looked like. In fact, as I said in an earlier email, whilst at MHMH I tried to run away with another boy and I cannot recall his name or even what he looked like. I believe that this is because each day and each month and each year was the same as the one before with nothing out of the ordinary to recall. Everything blurs in ones mind.. One does remember a few events out of the norm, or at least part of the event. I recall the erection of the dove cote. The bombs, my operation, and a few of the many visits my parents made but very little else.

Any other ideas? Did we just live an awful lot in our imaginations, then when reality got a bit more interesting just forgot all that, like a dream?

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Cynthia remembers strict nursing, the verandah, and snow

Someone mentioned the authoritarian approach to care at the hospital and I appreciate just what they mean. It is so difficult to recall how different life was 50 or60 years ago for everyone. I suppose it was a hang on from the Victorian, Edwardian periods when everyone had their place and knew what was expected of them. As junior nurses, and remember we are talking in months, and at most a years difference in their length of training, if the 'senior nurse' said 'jump', we said 'how high?'.

On one
occasion we arrived off duty in the sitting room to find notes on all the best chairs saying 'Reserved'. As it happened Matron Downs had followed us into the room and asked what all this was about. We explained that these were the senior nurses' seats. 'Nonsense' she shouted, and ripped up all the notes and left. We still knew not to sit on those seats or risk a 'cold bath' fully clothed in possibly our last clean uniform. Cold baths were the 'norm' for any nurse stepping out of line.

Nurses on Ward 2 (Big Boys), left to right Rosie Ward, Dorothy Johnstone, ??, Christine English, and Val Tanner. There were nurses came from Rothwell hospital for some of their training I wonder if they will see the blog and join in.

Jock Corbett, the Nurse Tutor

Another person recalled sleeping under the verandah. This
was the 'norm' for any bots on ward 2,(Large boys.)However they wore wind-jammers and balaclavas and were allowed hot water bottles.The staff had to make the beds on the verandah even when it was snowing and we were not allowed to wear cardigans. We were treated the same as the patients. I do not recall any member of staff going down with TB!

Does anyone remember when it snowed.The nurses would clear
a path to the ward to help Joff get the meal trolleys in and the snow we cleared was used for snowball fights. The beds were covered with long mackintoshes and snow piled on the boys chests. They were supposed to wait for the signal to start but I believe that was just in theory. It certainly never happened in practice! When the battle was over the boys were taken into the wards for a bath and breakfast.

Big boys under the verandah, Ward 2

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Harry remembers the dentistry, and Matron Downs

Your message brought back some memories.
I recall Matron Lodge although I had not remembered her name. I remember the nurses making sure that none of us boys made the slightest mess of our beds until she had done her morning round. I also have memories, now that you
mentioned it, of the dentist. I remember most vividly having an extraction and spitting blood and bits of tooth whilst bawling away. I must have been seven or eight at the time. Since that day I have been terrified of going to
the dentist, even when I knew that I had no dental problems and would not require any work done.

I was pleased to hear that perhaps Matron Downs may add to the blog as I was a patient when she took over. I wonder if she recalls the two boys that tried to run away. As it was a long time ago my memories of it are a little vague but I would love to hear an account of that day from one of the staff that was there that day.

More memories of late 1950s and photos from Cynthia

In one blog someone mentioned the hole in the plaster beds for toileting purposes. This reminded me of what was probably my first day at MHMH. I was doing a 'bottle' round on ward 2 (largies). when I got to one boy lying face down on a plaster bed. He informed me he needed help with his bottle: so red faced I grovelled under the bed clothes to offer the required help. To my frustration I could not find the appropriate appendage. By this time the whole of the ward was bursting with repressed laughter which exloded as an older nurse shouted down the ward for Richard to get back in place on his plaster bed at once and use the bottle himself as he was quite capable of doing. This apparently was his usual party piece for all new nurses.Needless to say he never did it twice to the same nurse!

Another thought I have was much later, when as theatre nurse I had to attend the dentist once a month when he made his rounds of the ward. I had to carry a hideous treadle machine to which the dentist applied his drills and brushes in order to 'treat' the patient.All I can remember is the dentist shouting,' Faster nurse, treadle harder!' I just hope that the treatment was de-scaling and cleaning and not for fillings! Poor children.

Here are some more photographs which may jog some memories. The first one is me (Cynthia) with an ex-patient on the playing fields where all the beds were pushed to for visiting time.

The second is an ex-patient with Zoe Weddall's rabbit Sandy,which as theatre nurse I had to groom and exercise daily.(As you would expect!).

Finally number three. Someone mentioned children having head bars when their disease was high in the spine and they could not be trusted to lie still! Poor little things. The girl on the right has one of these attachments.

As you can see she was a happy little thing and didn't seem unduly worried with the restriction. I did wonder if Yvonne may remember this girl as she was still at MHMH when I left in 1958 and as you can imagine had some time to go before discharge.

The Lost Children of Craig-y-Nos blog

I've added a link to the Lost Children of Craig-y-Nos blogspot, run by Ann Shaw, which has been running a while now, and from which I've had a lot of help. It has a similar purpose to ours, but deals with a rather different hospital, in a different social context. The blog also has a link to us. Well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Extract from Gerald Appleyard's book "Walton-in-Ainsty"

The following is an extract from Gerald Appleyard's book “Walton – in – Ainsty” and is reproduced with grateful thanks from the Marguerite Hepton Hospital Bloggers.

Mr Arthur FL Hepton Founder and Miss ME Downs Matron from September 1938

Between Walton and Thorp Arch was a pleasant country house owned by Mr Arthur FL Hepton, a Leeds and Harrogate businessman. Prior to its opening as a hospital for children on 16th April 1910 Mr Hepton’s daughter had a long illness. After her recovery, he gave the house and grounds to the Leeds Invalid Childrens Aid Society, in gratefulness for her complete recovery. A gesture which provided the inspiration for one of the districts prettiest hospital.
Marguerite Hepton later became its hospital secretary for many years and lived into her 90s at Harrogate.

Hydrotherapy pool 1981. Miss Patricia Sykes is in attendance

The hospital, with magnificent support from many societies in Leeds, and local groups of people, created funds for its development into an 80 bedded orthopaedic hospital. It had an operating, x-ray department,physiotherapy and hydrotherapy units, plus a small chapel where many babies were christened. The Leeds education department provided schooling for the long stay patients with a head teacher for each of the four wards.

The hospital was born in a spirit of thanksgiving. In one of her reports during the 1914-18 war Marguerite Hepton wrote “It is felt so important, this work requires more than patriotism or sense of public duty to make it successful. There must be a real love for the children themselves. True patience in dealing with them, and a fixed determination to let no consideration come before that of their true interest and progress.”

The hospital expanded and a further gift by Mr Hepton of £5000 in memory of his only son, who was killed two days before the end of the First World War allowed more development to take place, but in the 1920s the hospital incurred a debt of £3000. This was cleared in 1927, led by Mrs Enid Lane Fox of Walton and a great number of helpers who raised funds. The period between the wars saw many developments and the hospital went from strength to strength.
A new wing was built, known as the Riley Smith Wing by the brewery owners at Tadcaster.

The majority of children during this time suffered Tuberculosis of the bone. Later correction of limbs due to the devastating results of Poliomyelitis were operated on by Professor Clark. Some of the children were hospitalised for up to two years.

Gerry Appleyard 1985. Standing where the German bomb was dropped in 1942

During the 1939-45 war a munitions factory was built in front of the hospital which resulted in Wards 3 and 4 being built to get children under a more substantially protected building. The year 1940 and 42 saw bombs dropped on the munitions factory, in 1942, two German bombs were dropped one on the road in front and one behind the nurses home narrowly missing the buildings. Between these two bombs were 80 children and staff. At the close of the munitions factory at the end of the war, £1131 was raised for the hospital funds.

Charles and Diana wedding celebration 29/7/1981 (children no longer patients)

In 1980 all children were kept at St. James Hospital in Leeds and adult Orthopaedic cases were sent to Thorp Arch from Leeds General Infirmary and St. James Hospital until its closure as a hospital on September 16th 1985. It then became a private nursing home.

Billy Bremnar signing Plaster casts, Gerry Appleyard is at his side 13/7/1968
Many celebrities visited the Hospital during its 75 years. Princess Anne visited the children on May 11th 1972. Thorp Arch school children formed a guard of honour waving flags along the drive.

Gerald Appleyard was the hospital's last nursing officer.

Reply from Jane - we're all doing the history!

Hello Margaret,
This is the beginning of the history you wanted to see - and now you're part of it! I have a feeling you have a lot more to add.

Margaret Vicars, nee Rhodes remembers strict disiplinarians

I was in Marguerite Memorial Hosp. at Thorpe Arch from 1941 to 1944. I am also in touch with a friend who was in at the same time. Matron Downs was a very strict disciplinarian and some of the nurses could be very hard and two of them whose names I can remember were cruel, considering we were helpless children. I have photographs of the hospital and some of the patients. Felicity Lane Fox was the secretary when I was there and I have the letter to my parents telling them to come and take me home in Sept. 1944. I am disappointed to find there is no history of the hospital on the internet that I can find.
Margaret Vicars, nee Rhodes

Monday, 5 May 2008

ex-nurse Cynthia Coultas remembers changes in nursing and visiting

I worked at MHMH from November 1956 to May 1958 as near as I remember. At that time we still nursed many bovine TB cases on plaster beds and Jones abduction frames depending on whether spine or hip was involved, but we had no 'open' chest cases with positive sputum results etc. Many of the children by then were 'old polio' cases following the 1947 and '52 outbreaks and in need of corrective surgery. There were also cases of cerebral palsy, osteomyelitis, and congenital problems such as hydrocephalus and spina bifida.

The introduction of antibiotics had a miraculous effect on many infectious diseases. TB. of course responded so well to streptomycin and then the non antibiotic treatment with INAH and PAS. If you remember these you will know how unpleasant they tasted but thay saved so many lives and shortened the hospital stay for so many others. During my stay at MHMH Zoe Weddall was sister in charge of ward one girls ward as you know. She was also theatre sister and duputy Matron. I had the priviledge of working as her theatre nurse for six months before moving on to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. I have recently made contact with Zoe again but only on the 'phone. She is now very elderly and frail. She has promised me the odd photo' if she can find any but she destroyed most of them when she moved to her present accommodation three years ago! How frustrating is that. She also has visits from the former sister Lodge from ward three small boys who married a vicar and is now Mrs Ibbotson. Sadly she is widowed. Do you remember her?

Visiting was still restricted to once a week during my time. I remember the large red buses wobbling down the drive and all the boys on the verandahs sending up a huge cheer.The nurses then had to set about pushing the children in their beds, a-topped with plaster beds or frames up to the playing field and the childrens park. Those who only wore calipers or had arms in plaster would come hurtling down the slide or being sick as they spun off the spider round about. Health and safety would have a fit today but I never remember any accidents. We nurses even took the more mobile children for walks in the village on the river bank!! Happy days.

I was still around when these were completely lifted to allow visiting at any time and as long as desired. This too created its own problems. Visitors turned up early morning with flasks and food and remained for hours!!!!! We thought it would wear off but unfortunately this was not the case and we had patients becoming constipated by trying not to have bed pans whilst visitors were present! I could go on but I think you get the picture!

A compromise was reached in most hospitals but how that works now I'm not at all sure, but nothing is ever simple. One family when I was at MHMH got round the visiting quietly by organising a scout group. They of course had weekly meetings and the parents were the leaders and so managed mid-week visiting as well as weekends. I have to say they had some very therapeutic activities and made blankets which were sold at the Summer Fete so it wasn't as selfish as might first appear. The revenue contributed towards extras for the hospital.

I wonder if anyone recognises himself from this photo of Miss Downs with the scout troupe?

Matron, Miss ME Downs, was in charge of the hospital when I was there. You would probably know her because according to some annual reports I've read she was there very early on and certainly took the home through the difficult period of change from a self-supporting project to the NHS.

[Note from Jane: Cynthia is also researching the history of the hospital]

01 May and 04 May

Malcolm was a patient with Perthes disease, 1959-60

I was a patient in the MHH from September 1959 to July 1960 (I was aged 9 at the time) with Perthes of the right hip. On reflection, and having read about other people’s lengthy stays in the hospital, I think I was rather fortunate. My hip problem was discovered in a moment of serendipity when I had x-rays for a stomach problem and the doctors noticed my Perthes. Up until that point I was totally unaware of it.

Some of my memories are quite specific and distinct but there are other things that I don’t remember at all. For instance I seem to have no recollection of the different wards and can only recall a couple of the other patients. Presumably this is because as we were confined to bed for the duration and so our horizons were limited, both physically and metaphorically.

My treatment consisted of being in traction the whole time, as opposed to a frame or having legs in splints. I had lengths of elastoplast attached to the inside and outside of each leg and at the bottom of each strip was a loop through which cord was passed. This cord then went through the bottom of the bed on pulleys and there were heavy weights attached to the end of it. How primitive that sounds now!

The staff I can remember were Sister Fidler (a very kind, reassuring lady), nurse Val Robson who I thought was wonderful and did so much to make my stay there as happy as possible, and other nurses Woodhead, Huddleston, and Rennie. I often wonder what happened to them all, especially nurse Robson. I used to have an autograph book which was signed by lots of the nurses, most of them putting in a little rhyme or saying, but this was lost many years ago which is a shame, particularly in the light of this research into the hospital. Looking back I think most of the nurses would have been aged about 17 (would that be right?).

Specific memories I have include:
- nights sleeping on the verandah
- film shows on the ward
- the open prison across the road – there was an occasional security alert when a prisoner absconded
- the nurses holding a dance in the hut on the other side of the drive
- a number of us boys having bows and arrows. We used to fire the arrows (which had rubber suckers on the end) at the ceiling (and occasionally at each other) on the ward and see how long they would stay up there. On visiting days my parents would wheel me up to the playing field where we could fire proper arrows much further, resulting in a lot of exercise for my dear old mum who had to retrieve them!
- visiting was at the weekend and on Wednesdays, I think.

I suspect I will remember more as other comments on the blog will act as a prompt, and as my mother is still alive I will ask her what she remembers.

Malcolm Benson
04 May 2008

Malcolm replies to Yvonne

I visited the site two or three years ago and it was being turned into a housing estate. I felt quite sad when I saw that! I believe it was used as an old folks home after the hospital closed.


03 May 2008 11:32