Monday, 5 May 2008

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

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