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

Fred Dubber remembers MMH 1950-1953

Fred Dubber, a patient from about 1950-1953
I spent around 2 and a half years there having first spent 6 months in Leeds Infirmary. Many memories are faint and others still very clear but I know I returned home shortly before the coronation in 1953 so I'm guessing I arrived in MHH in 1950.

I remember four wards, the babies and young boys wards were parallel to the driveway and were connected, an older boys ward was further up the drive closer to what was an older building housing, (I think) operating theatres, X-ray and physio facilities as well as a girls ward. It may also have been a nurses home. The older boys ward had an external veranda and this was used to give those in need an airing, I think they (and I) stayed out all night in the summer months but I could be wrong.

On my arrival I spent some time in a small shed together with another boy who I had known at Leeds Infirmary His name was Jonny Turton who coincidentally lived very close to my home in Leeds. He also had Perthes disease and we were both to receive similar treatment at MHH. After what seemed like an age, but at 5 years old time seemed to pass much slower than it does today, we were assigned to the small boys ward.

I remember being attached to a metal frame which I had to lie on, with legs slightly apart and two pairs of ribs across my chest fatened together with a jubilee clip type threaded strip (I was in trouble several times for undoing them and sitting up). The whole thing raised me probably around 4 inches above the bed. My legs had strips of sticking plaster attached full length on the inner and outer sides (sometimes causing nasty sores) and they were then wrapped in bandages. At the bottom of the sticking plaster cords were attached which ran over pulleys to weights hanging from the foot of the bed. The purpose of this frame was to prevent my sitting up thus moving the hip joint suffering from the disease. The weights applied traction to ensure the hip was under no load. I remained in this frame for most of my stay but towards the end I was fitted with calipers consisting of a steel framework with a padded ring for my hip which took all my weight with my leg held in place with leather strapping and my foot left in space about 4 inches off the ground, The caliper had a rubber foot plate and a stilt was attached to the shoe of my good leg to even things up. I was then taught to walk again with this odd arrangement and had to keep it on for about a year after I left hospital. Ironically one of my neighbours has a son who suffered a similar complaint as a child in the seventies and his successful treatment was 6 months bed rest. Can't help feeling a bit badly done by! MHH wrote to me in the late 70's and asked me if I would aid their research by returning for examination, this I did but my lasting impression then was just how small the whole hospital appeared to be.

I remember a teacher called Miss Clark who I thought of highly although education must have suffered for all of us there. Film shows were put on frequently (possibly weekly?), Popeye being my favourite but feature films were also shown. The nurses made a big effort decorating the wards over Christmas and we received many presents but sadly I don't know who provided them. On one occasion the nurses put on a Pantomime for us somewhere in the main building and we were all trundled over there in our beds. Bonfire night was also celebrated with fireworks and a fire. Wilfred Pickles visited us on more than one occasion too. I seem to remember a magic act being performed and wondered how the magician managed to connect those hoops together. We were also visited by an orchestra and can remember the Trumpet Voluntary being played, it has stayed with me ever since. Miss Clark came up with some sort of projector which I operated some evenings after dark. It projected black and white slides above my bed with short stories and pictures. My task was to read the stories to those nearby who could hear me. Just before I left in 53 someone brought a number of televisions in and we were able to watch the 'Stanley Matthews' cup final, a great treat for us all.

I think MHH must have been a training hospital as even at 5 or 6 years old it was obvious that the nurses were attending numerous classes and were under tuition on the wards. I don't remember any ogres but some nurses were much friendlier than others but just like today they tended to talk over you as if you didn't exist on occasions. I learned on one occasion to stop being too mouthy, I was taking the mick at the poor lad in the next bed because he was frightened at being given an injection. The nurse rounded on me and asked how I would feel if she gave me one too. Not wanting to back down I said that it wouldn't bother me and before I could blink she actually did inject me in the thigh, probably with something very benign. It served me right but it was a bit of rough justice and would no doubt have had her dismissed today.

One of the odd attitudes, at least by today's standards was the business of visiting, I thought we got 2 hours every alternate Saturday afternoon but I've read other accounts of only one visit a month and there is now doubt in my mind.

I have often asked myself what were the long term effects of the hospital stay. I blame my short sightedness on being in a ward with limited horizons and believe my eyes were not exercised normally causing this condition which appeared 2 years after leaving hospital. Being restrained in bed meant muscle wastage, my legs were like sparrows when I went home and I think my eventual height was also affected as I only achieved 5' 7" whereas both my brothers were over 5' 10" as adults.

By the time I returned home I was very happy to spend time alone, was never very demonstrative with my parents, very shy with girls (I hadn't spoke to one in 3 years) and extremely independent. These characteristics remain with me today, some more noticeable than others.

27 April 2008 22:51