Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pat Davies (née Cornell) 1944, age 10

Pat was a patient for a year in 1944 then she went back to nurse in 1951.

This is Part 1 of her interview with Dr Carole Reeves.

Because it is so rare to have someone who was both a patient and a nurse at Craig-y-nos , thus offering a unique perspective, I am going to carry this long interview over the next three days.

Pat lives in Coventry and attended the recent Patients Reunion.

"I was a patient from 19th of March 1944 to the 19th of March 1945. Exactly a year. I was very fortunate because it hadn’t taken such a hold on me. I think they caught it in time.

I was in the air raid shelter, and I had pleurisy twice. Really, I couldn’t get over it. I had a bad chest all the time so our family doctor recommended that I went for a chest X-ray, which I did in Swansea, in a place called Grove Place at the time. They did the X-rays and said, ‘Oh yes, there’s definitely shadows on both lungs. I was given a date when I had to go in.
I was ten. I had my eleventh birthday while I was in there.

Do you have any memories of the food?
One thing I absolutely hated and I still do to this day, was hotpot that we used to have on a Saturday.

It was ghastly, and do you know when I went back (as a nurse) they were still having it on a Saturday! It was horrible. It didn’t look like an ordinary stew. It was all thick and horrible. Most of the food was pretty good. I used to eat it all.

I can remember one meal when I don’t know what had happened but the food hadn’t come through to the hospital and we had a real concoction. We had bread and marge (margarine) – this was for dinner – with some potatoes and milk.

Were you on the balcony?
I went out onto the balcony round about June or July. Then, by September or November, I was getting up. I was out on the balcony until they brought us in when we had a snowstorm.

There was only one girl (Mary Morgan) and myself out on the balcony. It was mid-winter. We had a small spattering of snow but we were sleeping out there, and we woke up one morning and Mary said, ‘Can you move your legs?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t tried yet.’ ‘Try to move them.’ We couldn’t. She said, ‘Open your eyes.’ And the snow was inches deep on the bottom of the bed. They couldn’t open the balcony doors to get us in, so they had to send two of the porters round with a ladder to climb up onto the balcony to open the doors from the outside. Then they brought us in.

Sister Morgan ?
She was a bit of a tyrant but very fair.
She was the sort of person that if you had a worry you could go and talk to her, and she’d listen to you, but if you had been misbehaving you did get the raw edge of her tongue.

Did you ever have the gastric lavage that everybody hated?
No, I didn’t have that at all.

Generally, are your memories of Craig-y-nos good or bad?
Very good. For the first couple of days I was very upset. It was the first time I’d ever been away from my mum and I know I cried quite a lot, and they tried all ways to comfort me. It always seemed to happen around dinner time, mid-day. I always got these crying bouts then but it only lasted for a couple of days or so, then I settled down quite well. I got to know the other girls in the ward and we all made friends.

Your parents could only come once a month?
Just my mother. I’d lost my dad in 1942.

Was that in the war?
Inversely. He was wounded in the 1914-18 war. He was working on the docks and banged his knee and didn’t realise that there was a clot still underneath the knee cap – he was wounded in that knee. The clot just moved and that was the end. I was quite young.

It must have been quite distressing for you, having lost your dad and then having to go away from home.
It was, but the nurses were so kind. Some of them were really nice.

Apart from Sister Morgan, do you remember the staff?
I remember Sister Morgan very, very well. I can’t remember their names so much. There was one – Audrey Lloyd. She was a bit of a tease. She used to try to aggravate the children to upset us. I can remember I had a stuffed dog, a toy dog, and she took it off me one day. What I’d done, I can’t remember, but she took it off me and she threw it over the balcony. She was not the nicest of the nurses. Most of them were absolutely wonderful. There was a staff nurse when I was there as a patient but when I went back she was a sister, and that was Elspeth Jones. When I went back as a nurse I was on her ward. She said, ‘I remember you.’

What about Dr Huppert?
She was strict. Very, very strict but very fair. I got on with her very well. I thought she was alright.

What about schooling?
We didn’t have very much, not when I was there, not as a patient. It was a bit hit and miss. They came some days and they didn’t others. It wasn’t done very fairly.

You were there until you were eleven and then went back to school. Had you missed much schooling?
A lot of schooling, yes. It was very difficult to catch up. I couldn’t take the eleven plus because no way could I have done it. I went to the ordinary secondary modern school and I left at fifteen.

Pat Davies was in conversation with Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

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