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