Sunday, 13 July 2008

Alan Smith-Redshaw's sister talks about the effects on her family of her brother's long stay in hospital

I read your article in the Yorkshire Evening Post, about Marguerite Hepton Memorial Hospital. My brother, Alan Smith-Redshaw, was a patient there from 1949 until 1952. He was only 3 years old when he went in, came out at 6 years. He had osteomyelitis in one of his knees, then just as he was ready to come home he got it in the other knee. He remembers only bits: a frame covering his legs, and being laid flat with a mirror above his head so he could see the ward; the nurses cutting his beautiful curly hair off because there were nits on the ward – he was five then – and the fox and hounds coming up the long drive to show off the horses to the children. I think it might have been the Wetherby hunt, which still exists.

Visiting was every 2 weeks, one week Sunday, two weeks later Saturday. I was 11 years old. We would go on the tram to Leeds, Mum, Dad and my other brother to visit, then get a bus to Boston Spa, and then a special little bus that ran from there to the hospital. It stopped outside a little shop, and my Mum would go in there and buy Alan a pork pie. He said afterwards he wondered whether she thought he specially liked pork pies. Maybe it was the best thing they had.

Children could not go in to the ward, so we played in the long drive and peeped in through the hedge to see Alan. He is now 61 years old, and doing fine. He’s a taxi driver now, though he used to work in engineering until all that disappeared 15 years or so ago.

It must have been awful for my Mum and Dad to leave him there for all that time, only visiting every fortnight. I remember my Mum being terribly upset when they cut off Alan’s lovely curls, she cried nearly all the journey home from the visit.