Monday, 8 June 2009

Judith Jones (nee Best) Patient 1961 to 1964

These are part-memories and partly lifted from the diaries (News Books) which I kept at MHH from 1962-64, and from a memoir written by my dad.  

I was a patient in MHH (which we called Thorp Arch) from August 1961-June 1964, aged 4-7, with Perthes in both hips. I’d been limping and complaining of pain in my legs and Perthes was diagnosed by Mr Payne in Leeds. Mum said it was the nearest she’d ever come to fainting with shock when he said that I’d have to go into hospital for 2 years otherwise I’d be unable to walk by the time I was 30 and in a wheelchair by 40. 

I don’t remember arriving at the hospital or being upset for the first week as my dad said I was. He said I cried every time they left, locking my fingers behind Mum’s neck and begging her not to go. Then, after a week, I ’accepted my fate’ and hospital life became normality. 

I found it heartbreaking to read some of the accounts of other patients on this blog, especially Rowland’s, but I have to say that my memories of MHH are almost entirely happy ones. I can still picture the long, long ward - Ward 3, Small Boys Ward (actually a mixed ward) - with the rows of wooden beds which were constantly being moved around. ‘I’m next to Susan’, ‘I’m in the middle of Stephen and Diane’. The beds were pushed outside a lot in fine weather and the ‘shades’ (must have been those pull-out awnings on some of the photos) constantly being put up and down. 

I was on traction for a couple of weeks while my frame was being made – were they bespoke? The frame was metal with padded leather bits for my head, body & legs, straps and a metal bar across my chest to stop me sitting up. It was raised above the mattress so a bedpan could be slid underneath. You just had to ‘go’ and hope the bedpan had been well positioned. Some of the lads used to rock their frames from side to side, building up momentum so that it was possible to crash over the side of the bed and onto the floor. Needless to say, this was a terrible crime - ‘Ian is in a cot because he has been rocking on his frame’. The cots on Babies Ward had high metal sides. 

All our toys, etc, were kept in our bedside lockers, frustratingly just out of reach. I had a small suitcase full of comics, crayons, etc, which was mostly wedged between the frame and the side of the bed so I could get to my stuff easily. I wrote a lot about ‘playing with’ the other children and swapping toys around. 

 Bryan, my husband has called this photo 'Swinging Judy'. Well, I remember being desperate to go on the swings (fat chance) so asking my uncle to push the bed under them before taking the photo.

Yes - I was on traction briefly, then the frame for what felt like ever, then calipers which I never managed to walk on. Hideous things - gave me blisters. And Ward 3 was definitely mixed - probably as many girls as boys, although staff still referred to it as the Boys Ward, not Small Boys, even though there was another Boys Ward. Confusing.

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