Monday, October 29, 2012

1974: Your arms around me are tender and warm

Around this time in 1974 I was just about to go into hospital. It was for a minor but necessary operation, and at that tender age it meant time off school. That bit I was looking forward to, the hospital bit I wasn't.

The only time I'd ever set foot in a hospital up to that point was to visit Auntie Maggie two years earlier after she'd had a hip replacement which was quite revolutionary back then. Since she fell off a bus in 1971 things had never been right, so here was some pioneering surgery to get her back on track. Well it should have been. Except she spent the last 16 years of her life in sheltered housing sitting in an armchair with a Catherine Cookson and only a budgie called Sweetie Pie for company. It shat on my shoulder once when we popped in to see her on the way to a poetry competition. I came last. So much for that being good luck.

So I already knew I didn't like hospitals. Everything a shade of custard yellow and pale blue, with nasty cream coloured metal furniture that was all chipped and those red blankets. And the smells. Brrrr. The saving grace was this hospital was brand new. In fact, it was weeks away from being opened by Princess Anne.

It was dark when they took me in. We'd heard the Stylistics in the car. Mum's favourite. It made me not want to go in more than ever.

It seemed we waited ages in some sort of holding pen, with other kids all as nervous as me. I made a friend in an Asian boy called Joad or something similar, encourage by my granny who thought she was doing her bit for local race relations. But he was in a different ward to me. I don't remember them leaving me, but perhaps it was just as well. My granny, who lived nearby, stayed longer and said she wave from the ground. But with the light reflecting off the windows I couldn't see anything. I know she did it though.

I'm unsure as to how many days I was in there pre-op, but it seemed like a lot. Mum had a friend called Evelyn Glass who I'd never seen before but she seemd to work there and she'd come and see if I was okay. She wasn't a nurse or anything. After I was discharged mum told me one of the spookist stories I'd ever heard, concerning the husky-voiced Evelyn Glass.

One day, a man knocked on her door and told she should come quickly, as her husband had dropped dead on the cricket pitch. In a spin, she went to get her coat and when she got back to the door the man was nowhere to be seen. She hurried up to the cricket ptich where her husband was in bat - and then saw him collapse and die before her very eyes.

Creepy eh? The nurses were lovely though, and I had lots of visitors bringing comics and black grapes in a brown paper bag. I think Lucozade might have been involved too.

When it was time to get me ready for the op, I remember being given anasthetic and the large needle hurting a lot. But it didn't knock me out at once. Only when I was in the operating theatre anteroom on a trolley, chit-chatting about Princess Anne with an orderly, did I finally succumb.

The next day I awoke and was immediately sick. Mum had been to see me but I was out cold. She'd bought me a crust of bread in her handbag, knowing it was one of my favourite things, the end bit from a loaf.

I couldn't actually eat a thing. There were too many things turning my stomach. I still can't eat Heinz chicken soup to this day. I can still smell it. It just conjures up harsh flourescent lighting and bags of piss. Sorry.

Convalescing at home I got a pile of letters from my schoolfriends (I think the whole class was made to write to me) and a neighbour bought me a book: Little House On The Prairie. Masculine. I romped through it though.

Thankfully I've not had cause to be admitted to hospital since. I've had the odd procedure but nothing major. I've visited a lot obviously, and I don't like doing it. The hot air, the sealed-in feeling. But most of all, the smell of the food.

Boiled fish and mash potato anyone?

1 comment:

  1. I never had an overnight stay in hospital until I was in my late twenties. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have coped well at all as a child. You sound like you handled it very well, considering you were so young. Your mum bringing you the end of the loaf as a treat is a very sweet touch.

    But that story about Evelyn Glass is terrifying. So, so horrible.