Friday, January 18, 2008
Terry Hunt, age 7, Craig-y-nos 1947-48
Terry is a metallurgist living in Newport. You may remember him, the very tall guy, at the Patients Reunion last September.
Catching TB from a relative
"I picked TB up from my uncle.
My uncle and my father served in the Merchant Navy together during the war in the convoys. My uncle had supposedly had quite a rough campaign and when he came out after the war he was quite ill. I don’t think they realised then … I know he lived with us for some time after the war. He was a single man then, and I definitely picked it up from him. I was something of a favourite with him apparently, and he used to pick me up and play with me when I was a small boy, and that’s why, apparently, I caught TB from him and none of the other children did
He went into a sanatorium. I don’t know how long he was in a sanatorium but he was never in a full-time job afterwards. He actually lived in a Haig Home until he died.
He wasn’t bed-ridden or anything but he was the classic TB sufferer – he was very, very thin, very white skinned, and he never ran anywhere. He just did odd jobs, basically, and lived in a Haig Home all the time I knew him, and of course in those days, people smoked whether they had TB or not.
I smoked for twenty years.
I can’t recall anyone telling me it was bad for me until you started to learn yourself in the sixties and seventies, when people got a bit wise, and I stopped. But it was amazing. Lots and lots of people I know had lung problems and still smoked.
Treatment in Craig-y-nos
I don’t recall any. I do recall being taken into hospital and I do recall being taken into the surgery part of the hospital.
Strait jackets and “restrainers”
Like everybody else I was in strait jackets or restrainers. I remember breaking out of them and having heavier ones put on me to tie me down to the bed, and I can also remember being taken into what I would see now as an operating theatre. Then I can remember bringing up blood, but whether that was anything to do with TB or a lung collapse or whether it was this lavage process, or even having a tonsillectomy done, that I don’t know. I don’t know what treatment I had there.
I stayed in there until they moved me to Llandrindod.
The total time I understand was about two years. I’ve always understood from my parents that it was about a year in each place.
I remember I was either on the left hand side (of the boys’ ward) or on the far wall. Our beds used to be pushed out (on the balcony) by the open windows and stuck out there in the winter.
I can remember spending quite a lot of time on the balcony. The biggest problem I can remember is that you couldn’t go anywhere, and I suppose ever since, I’ve never been very keen on being held down at all.
On the lake
But I can also remember being taken out on the lake when I was there. I can remember quite clearly being pushed around in the boat there
In my early thirties, when I was still playing rugby, if I went in for an X-ray, I was always whipped down the chest clinic to be checked over.
On one occasion I broke a rib and I had quite a bad knock. I was back and forward to the chest clinic for about two months.
I was never a great rugby player but from the time I was about sixteen I started playing soccer and then I started playing rugby when I was about twenty-one or twenty-two. I was very small when I was young, quite skinny and short. When I left school I was about five feet one, and then from sixteen to about twenty-one / twenty-two, I grew over a foot. I went from about five or six stones up to about thirteen and a half stones.
All I can remember is that it was okay. I don’t remember there being a problem with food. I can’t remember being force fed. A couple (at the reunion) said that they kept forcing you to eat and you weren’t allowed to leave your food, but then that was the general case anyway. It was like that at home. You couldn’t leave food at home, they just wouldn’t stand for it. In a time of rationing you ate the food you had.
I always felt that it was infrequent. I always thought they didn’t come to see me because either they didn’t want to see me or it was a case that they couldn’t afford to come and see me. It wasn’t until I was talking to the staff – the former nurses and other patients – and they told me that they were only allowed to visit once a month anyway. I can’t ever remember being told that.
… I think it would have made a difference if I had been told.
People’s fear of TB
I always had the impression that when people had TB in those days they weren’t expected to survive. You know the expression ‘a dead man walking’. You weren’t expected to survive and so many people didn’t survive that they didn’t really expect you to come out.
The feeling I had in there was almost one of helplessness, that you couldn’t do anything. Everything was out of your hands, what happened to you. You were in the hands of the doctors and the nurses, and you just had to rely on them to look after you and get you well. Get you back home.
How did you pass your time?
It was boring, yes. You just used your imagination. I can remember being taught to draw and that sort of thing, being encouraged to draw. I think that might have been one of the things the teachers taught us to do. I don’t know how much formal education that we had in there. I know we had some education. My sister always tells the rest of the family that I had no education at all until I actually left the hospital, but I don’t think that’s true.
You went on to grammar school, didn’t you?
Yes, I did.
So you must have been bright.
When you left Craig-y-nos, were you behind in school?
When I left Llandindrod and went home, I did stay at home with my mother for quite some time, and then initially I was sent to the infants school, which was quite close by Brynmill in Swansea. I remember being in the infants school and being older than all the other children around me. I was there for some time – how long I don’t know but it wasn’t a great length of time – then I was moved up to the primary school. I went up to the primary school in Brynmill and I was less than a year in that primary school before I was moved to the Catholic primary school in the town centre, which is St David’s in Swansea. I was there for a year where I did my eleven plus. I’m guessing that I did about two years in primary school so I would have been eight or nine when I actually started school.
Taking the 11plus
I actually did my eleven plus before my eleventh birthday. I entered the grammar school in September 1951. I was eleven in June 1951. What did surprise me was why they didn’t let me go another year before I sat it. That surprised me, I must admit. I found grammar school quite a struggle, to be honest, and I struggled through my time there.
I think I surprised my parents that I got four GCEs (O-levels). I went to work at sixteen. I struggled in education until I was about eighteen / nineteen, and then I started catching up.
Education- qualified as a metallurgist
Most of my education for my work was day release and night school. The employer I went to work for as a trainee metallurgist in a laboratory, gave me day release and over a number of years I got two Higher National Certificates and I got professional entry into the professional bodies of metallurgists and fuel technologists. I was then into my twenties and I actually finished my education, if you like, when I was about thirty whereas the people around me had finished theirs in their early twenties. It did slow me up to a certain point but I did eventually catch up.
I enjoyed my work. I had a marvellous time.
Staff at Craig-y-nos
I can remember having my sweets pinched. I can remember our sweets being taken away but I can’t remember ever being ill-treated by a member of staff. They must have done something right because I married a nurse!
I’ve never had a problem with medical people other than I’m a bit suspicious of them! I’ve always had a view that doctors don’t know all the answers and I think that goes back to that time. I don’t have tremendous faith in doctors.
What are bad memories of Craig-y-nos? It did affect you, didn’t it?
Yes, it did. When I told my parents things that had happened, like having your sweets taken away and being tied to the bed, they just didn’t believe me. It was a case of, ‘Oh, he’s always telling stories, always telling lies.’
I didn’t use TB as an excuse.
I remember when I started grammar school. Any sports activities I found a tremendous struggle the first two or three years in school and I recall once, the gym teacher making me run around the gym and I just couldn’t do it. I was absolutely exhausted. When he was asking me why I couldn’t do it, I started trying to tell him that I’d been in a sanatorium with TB for two years, and I had the reaction, ‘Well, stop making excuses,’ and he smacked my backside. There were a couple of things like that happened, so I stopped saying to people, ‘I’ve had TB.’ As I’ve grown up I don’t tell people about it. If I wasn’t very good at sport, I never used that as an excuse.
Social stigma of TB
When I was a kid, the kids in the street weren’t allowed to play with me. The kids are all playing but you’re the odd one out. You’re not to go too close to them in case you’re infectious.
You were on the outside a little bit.
You just learn to live with it.
(Carole ) Some of the staff have been critical. One of the reasons why we wanted to organise the reunion was to get staff and patients together, and to get all the facts together. There are going to be things that people don’t want to hear but we do want to understand how children experienced their time in Craig-y-nos. This experience will be from a completely difference perspective than adult patients or staff.
The nurses I spoke to (at the reunion) are quite comfortable with it and did give a lot of information to people that were there.
(Carole ) That was good. It probably helped people to understand some of the things that had happened to them, and of course, medicine was different in those days. Nobody ever told you what was going to be done to you. They never told adults let alone children.
Tied to the bed
It depends on your perspective. When somebody stood over you to make sure you never got out of bed, you can either treat it as for your own good or see (that person) as a jailer. I know you weren’t allowed to jump around and weren’t allowed to run around the wards, and that’s basically why they tied us to the beds.
Total bed-rest was the treatment, certainly before the antibiotic era. The other thing they were worried about is that if people did start bouncing around, they could have a lung haemorrhage. They were always frightened of that but you can’t explain that to a child (and wouldn’t want to frighten them anyway).
My wife recalls restraining patients when she was in the early part of her career. They were still using restraints on some patients.
(Carole ) They certainly did in psychiatric units. When I spoke to Valerie Brent (pupil nurse at Craig-y-nos in the mid-1940s) about restraints she said they used to do it to stop children falling out of their cots or beds because they had so many children to look after, and were usually short-staffed. So that’s yet another perspective. Is there anything else that we haven’t talked about?
Feeling a misfit
When you come out of hospital you’re a bit of a misfit really because you can’t go to school. I remember my sister wasn’t very happy when I came back because I suppose she was number one in the family, and this person (me) appeared from nowhere. I’ve talked to others and their experiences were very similar.
It was a more relaxed atmosphere there. I can’t remember being restrained there. It wasn’t so restrictive as it was in Craig-y-nos.
I always had the feeling that we were able to move around there. It was more of a rehabilitation place."
Terry Hunt was interviewed by Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.