Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The "x-ray man"

Now I have a name for him, the man I had known only as the “x-ray man” thanks to Joan Collins ( nee Coughlan’s) contribution a few days ago.

He’s called Mr Hughes and he came from Swansea to do the x-rays at Craig-y-nos.

My memory of him is not pleasant though I hasten to add through no fault of his, more a case of circumstances and the way it was in those days.

Mr Hughes probably never even gave it a thought except perhaps to comment later in the day, maybe to his wife, that there had been “an incident” with a “difficult” child.

I was that child.

My best friend Rosemary had just gone home and I was told by Sister Morgan that if my x-ray was OK then I too would be going home.

After more than 2 years in Craig-y-nos I positively skipped down to the x-ray dep.

X-rays were a routine feature of life every three months if I remember correctly, this was long before the dangers of radiation became known.

As if on automatic I go through the standard procedure.
“Take your clothes off...stand there...take a deep breath”.

Off to get dressed.

Only this time as I am in the middle of dressing I am told to wait.
A nurse appears with a worried look on her face.

The “x-ray man” stands in the doorway.

“There’s a problem. We need to do more x-rays. We need to do a tomograph. We need deeper x-rays.”

They don't need to spell it out. I know the scene. I’ve got TB again. I've had a relapse.
Back to bed with PAS and injections. No going home.

I cry, I howl in protest. A nurse sits me down in the waiting room. She puts her arm around me.

I refuse to be comforted. The more she hugs and talks to me the worse I get.

The x-ray man says he can’t do the x-rays with the state I am in.

They go into a huddle.
They change tactics.

Its nearly midday. They walk me into the x-ray room and I am told to climb up and lie down on the x-ray machine. It is a tomogram. A blanket is thrown over me.

Nothing is said, or if it is I am too distressed to hear it.
They walk out and close the door.
They go for dinner.

I am alone. For an hour, maybe longer.
I have no memory of time except that I know I am alone in this room full of machines and it’s hard lying on this slab of metal.

My sobbing eventually wears itself out and by
the time they return it’s given way to snivelling broken by the occasional gut wrenching sob. ( to this day the sound of children crying sends a cold chill through me).

The tomograph over I am wheeled back to Ward 2 in a wheelchair. Humiliated.

Many years later I revisit Craig-y-nos.
I am shown the derelict x-ray dep. and I stare at the empty space which once housed the x-ray machines.

My guide, a young girl from the Rhondda valley, interrupts my reverie.

She points to a bricked up door:
“That led straight to the morgue”.

The grotesque horror of the situation finally hits me.
During that hour that I had been left alone in the x-ray department weeping I was in fact not alone .

I had some silent companions only yards away.
Very silent.

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