I remember being taken upstairs to the ward by "a woman" in a white coat, shouting as I went, "I hate you, I want my Mammy".
I was born in Burradon, a colliery village in Northumberland and had my fair share of hospital stays when I was a child. My earliest recollection of a hospital visit was at three years old. Due to frequent colds and sore throats, our doctor arranged for me to have my tonsils removed and my adenoids cut. My Mother took me to the Fleming Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, some seven miles away and had to leave me for three days. On arrival I remember being taken upstairs to the ward by “a woman” in a white coat, shouting as I went, “I hate you, I want my Mammy”. I found out in later years “the woman” was a very young student nurse.
When I was four years old we (my parents and two year old Brother Stafford) moved to Annitsford). I still attended Burradon School because the only school in Annitsford was Catholic and we are Protestants. At six years old I was having many days off school with sore throats.
Dr. Theodore Craig, who lived in next village, Dudley, was our family doctor and had his surgery in Sinker’s Row, a house in a row of colliery houses one mile from Annitsford. He employed a lady, who called each Friday, to collect 3d per week for his medical services. My Dad was on the dole but Mother made sure this was paid each week for our health care.
Another poorly day and my Mother took me to the surgery. There were no appointments, you simply waited your turn. We found Dr Craig absent and in his place, helping out, was his lady cousin, Dr. Harper, who lived in Edinburgh. After examination she told my Mother to take me home and put me to bed. She took a swab of my throat and would make a house call the following day. She arrived early, having ordered an ambulance, I had diphtheria. By 11.00 a.m. I was taken to Lemington Isolation Hospital, into a small ward with two beds, one for me and a nurse slept in the other. She cared for me during the day. Sometimes she read me a story but I spent a lot of time on my own, looking through the window.
I could see children in a building opposite. Sometimes they played outside on a grass patch, under care of a nurse. I asked to join them but couldn’t – they had scarlet fever. A few days later, a small girl joined me, another bed was brought in to ward. I think she was Dutch, the family lived in Gosforth. She was younger than me and cried for her Mammy continuously. On consulting her parents and with assurances she would be looked after in isolation, she was allowed to go home. I too returned home, to convalesce. I was the only child in the village to have diphtheria.