Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Valerie Brent, ex-nurse Craig-y-nos, 1940's
Our reporter and roving ambassador for this project Valerie Brent from Mumbles, ex nurse and author of “ Life isn’t all kiwi and oranges”
went up to Brecon to see the current exhibition “ Children of Craig-y-nos”.
She says it has attracted a good deal of interest in the area and the Visitors Book has got at least ten pages of names.
Afterwards she popped across the road to the pub “to warm up” and within minutes both Valerie and her friend were deep in conversation with the only other customer there and the landlord. (“We had a grand evening...very jolly”).
It didn't take Valerie long to find out that both men had TB as children and had been treated at home .
Why was this? what was the criteria used to select some children for the sanatorium and others either to be treated in the local hospital or at home? We can only hazard a guess that it was to do with the stage of the disease.
Valerie reminded me again of some of her stories of her time as a 15 year old nursing in Craig-y-nos in the mid 1940’s.
”I got paid £3.10 shillings a month plus board and keep and had one day a week off.”
Valerie was glad of the job and grateful to Matron Knox- Thomas for taking her on. (“My parents had died. I was an orphan”).
She lived in the nurses home and worked three shifts
Her hours were from 7.30 -4.30 1.30- 8.30
She recalls on one occasion being reprimanded by
Sister Williams, who for reasons unknown, was called “Boogie” for washing negative and positive toothbrushes in the same bowl.
“I had no idea what she meant. So she explained to me that some children were positive with TB and others were negative.”
How this was established was of course through the use of the notorious gastric lavages.
Gastric lavages started at around 2 years of age. Sister Powell did them. She was “very firm” and the nurse would have to hold the child tight.
Valerie worked in the Glass Conservatory - the babies ward.
As a 15 year old she would often be in charge alone on the night shift with at least 20, maybe more. children in her care.
It was , she admits, a “skeletal staff”. She could if a crisis arise call on the night sister.
One night though Sister Outram did called on her to help.
She asked her to go to Ward 4 and warned her not to be afraid.
“She told me to put on wellingtons, a long gown, mask and gloves then took me into this side ward.
There was this young girl . She was beautiful, like a Madonna. I had to help lay her out.
The tears were running down my face. The girl was only a year older than myself.”
Photo: Sister Outram with Dr Huppert