Monday, April 07, 2008

Roy Harry, age three and a half years, - gastric lavage - 1945

Roy Harry

If someone were to ask me what is the worst memory of your life , my thoughts would immediately return to Craig-y-nos, the Adelina Patti hospital during Spring 1945.

There was no cure as such for TB at the time. I know now that lots of strange even bizarre procedures were carried out in an attempt to ease the suffering of those stricken with the killer disease. But the main simple treatment was plenty of food to build up your strength and resistance, and plenty of fresh air.

My mother accompanied me to the hospital, it was a long journey from Cardiff it seemed to take all day I had never travelled so far in my life.

As we entered the hospital I began to fear the worst, up until now it had been a big adventure for me, but this wasn't a trip to the doctors, or to the local clinic.

I could understand the nurse speaking to my mother but two other members of staff a short distance away were speaking in a foreign language. I was in a different country and I felt uneasy.

I know I was ill with something or other but I wasn’t bed ridden, just a bit off colour and a bad cough.

My mother could see I was afraid she was saying things in an attempt to soothe me, by now I was sat on a bed and I could see lots of other people in their beds.
My mothers words meant nothing I couldn't even hear them anymore. I just wanted the medicine or whatever they had to do so we could go back to Cardiff.

A nurse and my mother were trying to explain that they would make me better as soon as they could, my mother had to go home to look after my two brothers, I had to be a good boy.

Now panic set in. I was in floods of tears. I still didn't believe my mother would go and leave me behind. The nurse stayed with me as my mother went through the doors. I screamed for her to comeback. The nurse was doing her best to console me.

Some of my belongings fell from the bed and as the nurse tried to catch them I leapt off the bed and ran for the doors.

I was about half way along the corridor running as fast as I could when I suddenly took off I was swept up into the arms of another nurse with the other one not far behind. I heard the foreign language again and then back at the bed they were speaking in the language we used in Cardiff.

I was sure if I could get away again I could still make it to the yard outside before my mother left.

The nurses resorted to tying me to the bed with some kind of harness. I was in a sitting position but held firmly to the frame of the bed.

Now I was completely distraught. I was crying as I had never cried before, the horror and frustration of being unable to undo the harness, the realisation dawning on me that my mother really had left me there.

I believe I was in a state of shock. I don't remember anything more of that evening or of the following days. I must have accepted my situation I must have made friends there were several boys of my age( I was coming up to 4 years old). and several older boys.

I believe now that children who are separated from their family and from their familiar surroundings go through the initial horror and trauma and then slowly a survival mode kicks in they blank off the life they had and try to replace it seeking out replacements for their family and friends any comfort that will make them feel better and enable them to survive.

When older boys on the ward told me they had been there for 1,2, or 3 years I was shocked beyond belief and must have begun the survival process to make my life better but there was another horror awaiting me.

I didn’t have breakfast this morning, something to do with a test, maybe I could have breakfast later. I thought having a test was someone opening my pyjama top and listening to my chest and my back,.

This was very different, a nurse came to get me . She held my hand we we walked out of Ward 1 along the corridor the same corridor along which I had made my bid for freedom. There were two or three doors along the right side and we went through one of these. I was
sat on a chair facing a window, the door directly behind me.

I was aware of another nurse there doing something with a rubber tube. I think they explained what was about to happen but I don't remember what they said, one nurse was holding me telling me to open my mouth the other one trying to hold my chin down whilst she pushed the tube into my mouth.

This caused me to panic I was so scared I shook my head violently kicked my feet out as hard as I could repeatedly until I was sliding down the seat of the chair.

The tube thing was put aside and I was repositioned in the chair.
They were going to have another go.
between my crying and sobs I was begging them not to do it again. they didn't listen of course so now I was held really firmly, once again the tube entered my mouth I mustered up every ounce of strength to continue my struggle, the tube reached the back of my throat and I heaved as though I would be sick, I had to stop it going down. I bit hard onto the tube which halted its progress.

I could taste tears which had run into my mouth. The nurse in charge of the tube pushing shouted at me not to bite through the tube she said if I bit through it I could die, her words terrified me but I couldn't bring myself to release my grip on it.

I felt the grip on my arms slacken and the one holding me down said :”go and fetch Sister Powell”.

I was crying bitterly I knew it wasn't all over, why were they doing such an awful thing to me? my mother was nowhere near probably a hundred miles away I was on my own.

The end was surprisingly quick. Sister Powell arrived. She was barking rather than talking, :”What’s all this fuss I wont stand for it” - that kind of thing.

Now there were two holders and one formidable tube operator, I didn't stand a chance. The tube went down and I went rigid trembling and shivering from head to toe.

Seconds later it was all over. Soon I was back in my bed in Ward 1.

I was in the Adelina Patti hospital for one and a half years. It did get better. It wasn't all traumatic like my arrival and my first tube torture, in fact most of my memories were happy ones laughing and singing and lots of friends.

I was unfortunate because I went there when I was young but so did hundreds of others , we suffered terrible stress because we didn't understand.

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