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

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