Saturday, December 29, 2007

The disease with no name

As a child my husband, Malcolm, had a TB in the neck in the early 1950’s. He lived in Yorkshire and was in hospital for two weeks receiving sun-ray treatment and he lost one term of school.

What has always puzzled me is that TB seemed to be treated differently in various parts of the country and I have a suspicion that somehow this was related to social class. Certainly in Scotland I keep hearing stories of how children were despatched to Switzerland for the cure.

So on a visit over Christmas to a 93 year old aunt in Yorkshire, I asked her about this. She had been a secretary to a hospital consultant and would visit Malcolm daily in his isolation ward and read stories to him.
And he was only in for two weeks. Yet every minute of those two weeks in hospital are written indelibly in his memory.

Even now, 50 years on, my aunt could not bring herself to utter the word “T.B.” She kept referring to it as an “infection” which he had picked up from “the local ice cream van”. Such is the power of language and the fear even today amongst older people that even the very mention of the disease could cause it like a genii to come leaping out of the bottle again and ravish a community.

Amongst my own family in rural mid-Wales the story was the same. References were made to “the exhibition in Brecon” though nobody dared mention what those photographs were about.

I am just as guilty.
We spent Christmas with my sister-in-law near Worcester, who I have known for over 30 years. She had no idea until late on Boxing Day evening when the subject got around to plans for 2008 and I mentioned “The Children of Craig-y-nos” book that my “dark secret “ came tumbling out of those four years confined within the walls of Craig-y-nos Castle.

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