Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Hospital Visit (Memory Lane)

I had been warned that we would not be allowed to see Godfrey for two weeks while he was in the hospital. Hard as it seemed to us, it was considered best to sever all links with home. It was 1948 and by today's standards it seemed to be a very cruel hospital rule.
I was just six years old by then and Godfrey was two and a half years younger than me.

The hospital was a tall building with lots of identical windows.
Godfrey was handed over to a "no stuff or nonsense" sister, and off she went with my screaming, struggling brother. We were told to wait outside the building so that we might wave goodbye to him through the window.
He was on the third floor, I think and when he appeared at the window, he looked as though he was putting up a pretty good fight, as the sister's hat was hanging from the side of her head.
The poor child must have thought we were abandoning him for ever.

With heavy hearts we turned and went towards the bus for home. I don't think anyone spoke and we were all fighting back the tears.
Dad went straight into the wash house, when we got home, and started to make Godfrey a steam roller out of empty syrup cans. That was the way that he coped with the situation. 
Mum was upset to think that Godfrey would have to go to sleep without his favourite green eiderdown with the frill around it. He used to stroke the frill and make comfort noises as he went to sleep. He had not been allowed to take any reminder of home with him to the hospital, not even  a toy or any kind of comforter. Those were the strict rules of a hospital in that era.

Years later Godfrey told me that he deliberately pooed the cot that he had been put in, as a punishment to the sister who had taken him away. Apparently she was very cross with him. I also learnt years later, that Godfrey's double hernia operation was one of the first to be done free, when the National Health Scheme first started in that year. He was very lucky as the year before, my parents would have been charged for it.

We all got on with our regular routine while he was away. Dad at work, Mum at home & I was at school. We had no phone so I don't know whether my parents ever got any news of my brother.
As the time came nearer for him to return home, we started to be in brighter spirits. I drew pictures for him and the steam roller made from syrup cans was now finished.
I was at school on the day he was due to return and I knew he would be there when I got back. The day seemed to really drag on for ever and I told everyone who would be bothered to listen to me that my brother was coming home! No one seemed to be really interested and even the teacher just politely said, "Oh that's nice," without as much enthusiasm as I would have liked to hear.
School eventually finished and I ran all the way down the road as fast as I could. I burst in through the door and there he was! Godfrey was home! I was surprised to find him in tears. Indeed he was having a tantrum.
Mum had been told he couldn't pedal his beloved blue car for three months until his scars had fully healed up. My parents had completely forgotten to hide the thing from sight and had quickly stuffed it between the settee and the wall. It had taken Godfrey just a few seconds to find!
The home made steam roller did nothing to appease the anger he felt and displayed. No one could console him and he eventually calmed down and fell asleep. He never was interested in the frilly eiderdown again and had totally forgotten the pleasure that it had given him before.
The pedal car was hidden from sight for the next few months and life went on as normal.


Mean Mom said...

Oh, poor little chap and how upsetting for the rest of you! How things have changed.

Nowadays, the operation would have been done in outpatients and by the time you had arrived to take him home, he would have been out on the car park.

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

What a very sad story, Maggie. It's awful to think that people were so unfeeling back then. Your poor little brother must have had a heck of a time, but so did all of you. I remember when I had my tonsils out when I was 4, that it was something similar to this. A very uncaring system. I hope Godfrey got over it okay in the end.

softinthehead said...

My goodness times have changed. It all sounds very traumatic for all of you. And how scary for Godfrey. Great post Maggie.

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Wonderful post Maggie!
I agree... how times have changed! If that happened nowadays your family would receive a hefty sum in compensation for neglect and abuse by the hospital!
It all must have been extremely traumatic for Godfrey!
I hope all turned out ok in the end! x

Suburbia said...

Thank goodness things have changed. Poor thing, and poor you too.

I spent some time in hospital when I was 5 and remember it as being a very lonely place.

Small Sprog has been in hospital a few times in his short life. Luckily I have been able to stay with him every time and the nurses have been wonderful.

Thanks for sharing Maggie :)

Suburbia said...

Thank goodness things have changed. Poor thing, and poor you too.

I spent some time in hospital when I was 5 and remember it as being a very lonely place.

Small Sprog has been in hospital a few times in his short life. Luckily I have been able to stay with him every time and the nurses have been wonderful.

Thanks for sharing Maggie :)

CrazyCath said...

Ohhh it truly makes my heart ache to know that the "rules" of those years caused such heartache. It is so unnatural for a child to be separated from his mother and everything familiar to them. Glad he came out ok and you have a wonderful recall considering you were only little yourself!

Mae said...

Things are changing constantly. I like that scene down memory lane.

Anonymous said...

I remeber that I had to have my tonsils out, I think I was around 4 and I didnt see my mam or dad until they came to pick me up.I know that there were grown ups there and no other children.I can remeber crying a lot for my mam It was traumatic I still fear hospitals today , even visiting.

Wendy said...

How awful! I'm glad Godfrey pooed the cot. Serves them right for taking a little boy away from his family.

My husband had a hernia repair when he was 3 and when it was time for his mom and dad to pick him up, he hid from them. The nurses found him under the bed. He was angry that his parents had left him in the hospital. Mind you, it was only for a day or two. Nothing like your little brother's experience.

Things certainly have changed. Nowadays it is not only common, but family is encouraged to stay with sick ones in hospital, to give the nurses a hand in caring for them.

Debra in France said...

Isn't it incredible how things have changed? Your poor things to hae all had to go through such a traumatic time. I can't imagine being separated from my mum and dad at such a young age.

Thank you for sharing this with us, it really makes me realise how lucky we are these days. Debra xx

Expat mum said...

Aw, bless. I'm another who had tonsils out at 4, and even in the 60's it was a bit unfeeling. I remember having to go to the loo at night, being taken by someone or other and just wishing I was at home. My parents were allowed to visit though.
I suspect that many of those seemingly uncaring nurses were doing what they had to to keep from breaking down themselves.

nanatrish said...

Bless his heart! Things were so different back then. Thank heaven things have changed in that area. So many things I would have to say have changed for the worse, but the way things like that were handled are so much better. You really are a great writer and truly hold my attention. I always enjoy your posts.

cheshire wife said...

Nearly every aspect of life has changed enormously in the last 60 years and it can be difficult to imagine what life was like back then.

Bina said...

That is just so sad. I'm sure things like that happened all the time, but I can't imagine a little boy, what, 4? going into the hospital, kicking, screaming and crying and not knowing if he would see his family again, and as a mother, it would just kill me, ya know?

But I guess that was norm for back then, but still, that just makes me sad.

the mother of this lot said...

Oh Maggie, what a sad story! My mum was in hospital with diptheria for eight weeks and she cried the whole time!

RiverPoet said...

What a trauma that must have been for him to just be left that way. I'm so glad things aren't that way anymore. That's awful.

It seems like it changed him, certainly at the time. Hopefully he turned out alright in the end.

Peace - D

Jules~ said...

OH my how hard that must have been. These days things at hospitals are so wrapped around family. Family helps to ease and control all the awkward situations and smooth things over for the medical staff. Times have changed so much.
My husband remembers being left at the hospital for the same sort of surgery and seeing his mom walk away down the sidewalk thru the windows and bars.

elizabethm said...

This was so vivid maggie! Poor little boy. I felt like running in and swoooping him up and taking him home again. Lovely.

Nora Bee said...

What a great story, although it breaks my heart to think of him being away from you all for that scary time.

Rose said...

How sad, Maggie May! This reminds me of a story I used to assign to my students. In it the mother felt so guilty for leaving her child at a hospital, but was told she couldn't have contact with her until she was released. Don't those regulations sound barbaric today? This is certainly one thing that has changed for the better.

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