Monday, 8 June 2009

Judith on Visiting and Her Dad's Views

The comments on the blog about separation from loved ones and normal family life, highlight how devastating it was to have children in hospital long-term and often at some distance from home. Visiting, as other people have pointed out, was hugely important and when I was in MHH it was every day and, I believe, at tea-time/early evening. We lived in Armley, Leeds, I was an only child and, to cap it all, my parents were totally blind (I wonder if Sister Lodge remembers Mr & Mrs Best - 2 blind parents can‘t have cropped up that often). 

Dad visited at weekends but Mum visited 5 days out of 7, accompanied by her sister, my Aunty Clara who lived with us, and sometimes other aunties and uncles too. They had to get 3 buses to Thorp Arch except when the hospital bus ran (was this just Sundays?). There was great camaraderie amongst the parents on the bus and they used the trip as a kind of ’user’s group’ to get support and swap information. Mum visited me for 2 years 10 months and in all weathers including the harsh winter of 1962-63. Looking back, I’m amazed and proud at her dedication but at 5 years old I was pretty aggrieved that she didn’t come every day. 

During weekend visiting, Dad used to get incensed that the TV, which was high up on the end wall, was switched on. He thought that visiting was for conversation, not for families to sit and stare at the box together. He repeatedly asked for it to be turned off, making himself rather unpopular, not least with me once Dr Who started. 

I should point out here that my father held strong opinions and could be an extremely difficult man - intelligent and articulate, but difficult - and we had a fraught relationship later. He was a great complainer and letter writer (he could type) and had a particular loathing for the medical profession. He referred to the doctors as ’ghouls’ and thought they were experimenting on us children for their own dubious ends. My consultant was Mr Clark and every 3 months I had an X-ray and he saw my parents to say, “Perthes not run its course yet - see you in another 3 months.” Dad just didn’t believe they knew what they were doing (doctors then wouldn‘t have discussed what was happening to my bones in the detail he wanted) and such was his rage that he stopped attending the consultations and let Mum go on her own. As “2 years” had been mentioned at the beginning, when 2 years arrived and Mr Clark was still saying, “Not over yet,” Dad asked for a second opinion. I went to Leeds Dispensary to see Mr Fitton who echoed Mr Clark’s view and Dad got the chance to fume, “They’re all the same.” Both doctors though, could no doubt see from my X-rays that my bones weren’t sufficiently recovered to allow weightbearing so knew I had to rest for longer. 

Years later when bed rest and frames had given way to home treatment, Dad was convinced that they’d known all along that hospital stays were unnecessary. Personally, I believe that the 1960’s doctors were giving me what they thought was the best treatment possible according to the knowledge they had at that time. Ideas change - that’s progress. 

A letter Written by my Dad to the Evening Post.

A resident child psychiatrist! He was ahead of his time.

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