Friday, 2 September 2011

Do you have a connecton with MHH? Do you have a story to tell?

I was a spinal TB patient for about 5 years (1943 to 1948), first in Wales, where my Dad was posted in the RAF (at Crossways hospital, near Cardiff), and then at the Marguerite Hepton Orthopaedic Hospital at Thorpe Arch, near Wetherby, Yorkshire. Eventually, developments in surgical techniques and antibiotics helped me recover fully.
I'm now 68, and I feel there's a story to be explored here about the hospital itself, the experience of TB patients at that time, and its effects on patients' later lives. It should be told by many voices - of patients, nurses, teachers, doctors and others who looked after us, and may be those of their children and grandchildren.
The hospital closed in 1985, became an old people's home and has now vanished under a housing development. Thanks to the Craig-y-Nos blog, about a similar hospital in Wales, and with good help from Dr Carole Reeves at the Wellcome Foundation Trust, this blog is gradually taking shape as people contact us to share their experience (See the link to the Craig-y-Nos blog on the left of the texts). We hope anyone connected with the hospital in the past will read the blog and add stories and comments, so that we can make a personal oral history.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Dorothy Davies Autobiography

I was admitted to St James’ Hospital, Leeds at the age of 9 with osteomyelitis in my left femur.  My life changed forever, little did I know at the time just how life changing this was going to be.  I felt very alone there as my bed was pushed out into a corridor every day.  As I was very pale, they thought it would do me good to see and feel the sun and fresh air coming through the windows. 

After a month I was transferred to Marguerite Hepton Hospital – Thorp Arch.  I was in plaster from the chest down.  I enjoyed the schooling there.  The teacher was called Miss Field.  It must have been quite difficult for Miss Field as we were all different ages ( 5 – 16 years).  She had to teach different programs for different children.

My memories of food aren’t  too good, I hated the rice pudding and lumpy potatoes.  If you didn’t eat it a nurse would bring it back for your next meal, and made you eat it.  Once, the girl in the next bed to me was sick in her rice pudding and she was made to eat it.  You can imagine the outcome; I can’t face rice pudding to this day. 

However, most of the nurses were kind.  I did see the odd acts of cruelty to some children.  Although I felt helpless and very, very angry, oh so angry, I was angry with myself for not being able to do anything, but personally I didn’t suffer any of this.  Now I feel very strongly about abuse of any kind. 

It did have huge impact on my life being separated from loved ones.  Visiting was on a Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon, 2pm – 3pm.  Of course there were no phones there and we all loved getting letter from our loved ones.  Sadly some children didn’t get any visitors.

We did have a TV (donated by a girl’s dad) but I couldn’t see it, as it was too far away.  

We used to get pushed outside daily. I remembered playing with a coloured ball.  I really loved meal time outside as the birds were so tame they used to sit on your knife and fork!

Bonfire night too was brilliant, as it was the only time I saw one of my sisters.  She was too young to visit as she was 11, and you had to be 12. That night Dad was allowed to wheel me to the gate to see here for a few minutes used to see my other sister June as she was old enough to visit with Mum and Dad 

We were not allowed to keep any sweets that our visitors gave us.  They were handed in and shared which was a really good thing.  Some things I don’t remember at all such as other patient’s names etc perhaps because I was flat on my back so my horizon was very limited. I do remember one girl who was in the bed at the end of the ward opposite to me, her name was Margret and I thought she was really old(16),she had TB of the spine and she was really brave and kind. She had dark thick hair and a warm smile; I never knew her second name
 I remember once I had visitors out of hours,, an elderly couple who knew my Mum and Dad.  They came from quite a distance and they were allowed to see me for 10 minutes.  They gave me a box of chocolate butterflies which I hid and ate later.  I did not enjoy them and felt ill and very guilty afterwards.  I learnt a valuable lesson that day. 

After 7 months I learnt I was to learn to walk again and go home.  They took my plaster off.  There was a thermometer, egg shells, dead wasp (to this day I am terrified of wasps) and lots more rubbish.  There was a lump of hard skin the same shape as my foot that came away.  For some reason beyond my comprehension one of the nurses thought this was fascinating.  I still feel a debt of gratitude to the very kind nurses.

I then went to Potternewton Mansion School quite near where I lived.  It was a special school for handicapped children for the whole of Leeds.  Some had learning difficulties, some behavioural problems, so it was not really conducive for efficient learning. 

I was in a Miss Grahams Class who was sort of a bit miserable, she was a middle aged spinster, but she was quite an efficient teacher. 

For nature studies we had Miss Clark, I used to love her classes. 

There were two male teachers Mr Tempest and Mr Perry who very occasionally would take us in a English and Poetry Class.  Then a Mr Attack took over our class, he was a bit airy-fairy, but a lovely person.  The headmaster was a Mr Paden whose main hobby was stamp collecting.  I don’t know where he got them from but he seemed to get boxes and boxes of stamps. 

When I first started there I was a bit shocked at the wide range of disabilities.  Quite often people died at this school.  Some children had muscular dystrophy; others had a hole in the heart. These children would have blue lips. They often went into hospital and you would never se them again. 

I remember one boy, Phillip Stead 11 years old who I got very close to.  Sadly he had M.D. and just before he died he was take for a day out into the country.  He brought me back 2 yellow snails; I called 1 marigold and 1 buttercup.  I never saw him again.

We had a physiotherapy department.  The physiotherapist was Mr Lewis who was also the physio for the Leeds Rugby team and sometimes for the England Cricket team, when they played at Headingly. He was a large man, who gave the impression that he was very hard, both physically and emotionally. 

Swimming was quite a big feature of this school. Once a year we competed in a swimming gala with other local schools. We were given so many yards start.  I was never a brilliant swimmer but always enjoyed classes.  Except my first one as I couldn’t swim and I didn’t know if I was more scared of the water or more scared of Mr Lewis. I decided I was more scared of Mr Lewis, so got in the pool and learnt to swim
My close friend at the school was Jennifer Kemp, sadly we lost touch when she moved away.. I think she went on to be a lawyer

The actual school was an old mansion house located on the edge of a park.  We had quite a large landscaped area of grass and trees.  There were may different types of trees, a rare one being a tulip tree, and an evergreen oak. 

Just before I left to go to a normal school we had another new teacher Mr Hyatt a Jewish Vegetarian.  He was very laid back.  He influenced quite a few of us to become vegetarian.  He also did a lot of charity work for the RSPCA and encouraged us to become members. 

After a couple of years I was given a chance to go to a normal school.  It came as a big shock to me that some people just wanted to mess around and some had been over indulged by parents.  There were some idiots and worse bullies and being different I was a target for them.  I found this difficult to get used to.  They used to push me around and liked finding ways to cause me problems.  It made me realise how privileged I had been to know such wonderful, brave children from my last school.  Children who helped each other and supported each other and who  looked out for their team mates. 

I wasn’t allowed to do P.E. or swimming at the so-called ‘normal’ school. 

I must admit that I am a little nervous even to this day of falling, and lack confidence physically.

However, after leaving school I got a job in a sweet shop locally, which I loved.  The years went on and I got married and had 3 children.  Now I have several grand children and 2 great grand children. 

I have had a total hip replacement, which is probably one of the best parts of my body (no arthritis in it). I lead a normal life and I feel that I am a better, more patient person.  Having osteomyelitis has made me stronger and given me so many privileges in life.  I have been blessed to have me such wonderful people who have taught me so many of life’s values.