Friday, April 11, 2008

Eileen Gibbons (nee Hill) 1950-54

Eileen befriended the children on the balcony

“I caught TB while working as a nurse”- Eileen

“I was working as a nurse at Bronllys hospital, near Talgarth in 1950. I was 18 years old.

I was very lucky because streptomycin had been just discovered.

But it had a very bad effect on me. I had a fever with it and I was very ill for about two months.
They kept giving it. Dr Williams saved my life because I don’t think I’d have stood much chance without.
I had it in both lungs.

Inside Craig-y-nos
I was on the ground floor. There were three youngsters of my age in the same ward. We used to like music and I suppose we created a bit of a racket.

Dr Williams was wonderful with us, he really was, and he seemed to understand although we were ill. It was a very small room that the three beds were squashed into, and on the balcony outside were children.

I can remember snow and the doors were all open and it all blew in. There were grids underneath the ward and we used to get visitors sometimes running up and down. It was horrible – rats, you know.

On absolute you have to be totally quiet.I was on ‘absolute’ rest for a bit. No visitors. At one time I know that I wasn’t allowed any visitors for some weeks, and it were a Christmas time, and I don’t remember Christmas. I had this streptomycin fever, a very high temperature, and I was very poorly apparently then. But they kept giving it to me and I’m absolutely sure this is what saved your life.

I know it was months before I had my hair washed and I had long hair. Oh, and it was awful.
The nurse used to clean it with eau de cologne.

It was not very good. Not much to tempt your appetite there.
They used to bring eggs and things like that. I used to love farm butter so they used to bring that in.
But you had to be very careful with it and keep it in something because of the rats.

When you are young it doesn’t affect you the same as when you’re older. I never thought about dying or that I was going to die, it never entered my head.

I can remember them telling me that a lady from my home, she used to be a barmaid in the local pub, had died upstairs, and of course, I was asking about her so in the end they had to tell me.
They didn’t explain things to you very well.
There were elderly people in our ward but of course they were partitioned off from us so we never saw that happen.

Passing the time
I did tapestry. I did a lot of that when I was allowed to because you could only do so much. They didn’t want you overdoing it. I had lots and lots of pen friends. I don’t know, you just passed the time. One day runs into another.

Well, I’m 76, so I’ve done really well, I think. The only thing is I lost three little boys. I don’t know whether it was the tuberculosis. Then I had a daughter and they were positive that she was bound to have something wrong with her. I had her by caesarean and I wasn’t well, I seemed to be exhausted then. And they took me to Tupsley Hospital – this is when we came to live in Hereford – and I was in Tupsley Hospital for bed rest and I was too weak after everything to sort of see to myself. A member of my husband’s family took the baby and looked after it and I stayed in hospital for a few months and got back on my feet, and then I had her back then.

But they turned her inside out here because they were positive there was bound to be something (wrong) because I’d had another breakdown from this tuberculosis. But there wasn’t and she went on to have four children.

Well, I fostered. We were foster parents and they’ve all grown up, most of them, and gone away. You know, they all come back. It was ten years before I had my daughter and in that time I fostered. I think that helped a lot.
You always see somebody else worse off than yourself, don’t you?

I come from Hay-on-Wye, right on the border. The book town. That’s where my husband and I were both born and we both went to school together.

Eileen (right) with some friends in the grounds of Craig-y-nos Castle

Running away from Craig-y-nos
(This was a dangerous thing to do because it was common knowledge that if you signed yourself out - or ran away, then the doctors would have nothing to do with you.
In this case Dr Williams ignored this regulation and continued to treat her.)

"I spent many months on bed rest etc., and eventually got on my feet again. I used to sit and watch visitors leave through the courtyard.

One Saturday I walked out with them had a glass of pop in the pub where the Brecon bus picked up passengers and went on the bus to Brecon, and then on to Hay.

Dr Williams saw me at clinic in Brecon and went on treating me with help from my local doctor and nurse.

It was a stupid thing to do but I’d lost my father only a few months before going into Craig-y-nos. He lost a leg and then died suddenly. I was very close to him; he was a wonderful father and friend. I missed him very much. He was 54-years-old."

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