Friday, March 31, 2006


Story contd.

My month’s trial turned out to be on one of the three medical wards. I knew there would be patients suffering from tubercular meningitis and leukaemia – both fatal diseases in the forties, so it was going to be harrowing. Everyone knew someone with TB, before the advent of safe milk. One little girl from a wealthy family had been given her own cow, which tragically turned out to be tubercular.

Over the years progress has been made; TB is rare and leukaemia can be cured, but then, the nursing was all- important to keep the patients comfortable and as happy as possible. Nursing children spoils you as far as nursing adults is concerned. They are incredibly brave and warrant love and affection. Whenever I am afraid of some ordeal I have to go through, I remember Edward, a boy of ten who had to have intramuscular injections every four hours. He would look at me with his big brown eyes and say,
‘Just wait till I get my grip Nurse,’ and he would grip the bed head, have the injection and let me give him a hug.

Parents were allowed to visit once a week on Sundays from 3pm till 4pm and they were very much under the eagle eye of Sister. There was no sitting on beds, no children visitors and only parents were allowed. And there was no cross infection. Each ward had its own maids and the wards were spotless. From the entrance to the ward you would see that all the bed castors were turned inwards at the correct angle and all pillow case openings were away from the door. This attention to detail was carried through in all aspects of nursing care, and the sloppiness one sometimes sees in today’s hospitals concerns me.

As a junior nurse, one’s first duty in the morning was to wipe down the beds and lockers with dettol. Matron did a ward round every day but never at the same time and you and the ward had better be looking immaculate. There was a cleaner who spent all day going from one end of the main corridor, on her hands and knees, scrubbing. I flinched every time I had to walk over it.

Friends used to ask how I could bear to nurse children so ill and the answer was the children were so inspiring and we could have happy times together. No, what used to finish me was when I looked at the parent’s faces when they came on the ward on a Sunday. I would have to retreat into the Sluice, have a good blub and then get back on the ward.

At last the month’s trial was over; I had my grey belt and a few months’ respite before the Preliminary State Exam in the autumn. There was the Christmas Dance (held in January) and my trip to Oxbridge to look forward to. Life was good.


Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

That must have been an emotional time, Pi. It takes a rare breed to nurse a terminally ill child.

I've loved the smell of Dettol since I was wee, but live in the States now where you can't get it. When my kids were born, I started ordering it online from an expat site because it smelled somehow more clean, and proper and comforting somehow, than anything else.

PI said...

Sam: I doubt if I could do it now.
I wonder if Dettol is still available

kenju said...

As a child, I was always very thin. My mom was constantly telling me that if I didn't put on some weight, people would think I had TB. It made me mad that she said that all the time.

PI said...

Kenju: I had the same problem and had daily doses cod-liver oil and malt and adexolin.

fjl said...

I think children have to be the ultimate test in nursing and psychology. If we can do kids, we've done a good job.