100 Years Of Alder Hey – Richard’s Story
Throughout our long history, millions of people have visited Alder Hey, including the United States Military during World War One. In this new blog series to celebrate Alder Hey’s 100th birthday, we are taking regular trips down memory lane to share your stories of years gone by.
If you have memories or stories of your time at Alder Hey, we’d love to hear them. You can submit your story on our Centenary pages.
I was a patient under the care of Mr Dwyer from 1956 to the mid 1970s. I was born with Arthrogryposis which affected all four limbs.
I have many memories of my time as a patient at Alder Hey. One of these is the old bullet nose ambulance which use to take me to and from Alder Hey. It had very rickety doors and made a terrible rattling noise going over bumps. The driver was called George and he often said to my mum and me: “The money the NHS spent on you, the government could have bought a new Ark Royal aircraft carrier!” which we both found very funny. He was right!
I had approximately 30 operations on all four limbs. The ward I was usually admitted to was the F2 ward. Mr Bradshaw was the Charge Nurse and his nickname was Daddy Braddy he was like another father to me whilst under his care but when he was on duty there was no messing allowed from the 20 boys on the ward at any one time.
I remember early days visiting times were restricted to 30 minutes on a Wednesday evening and an hour on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. My mum, dad and brother and sisters would always visit me, it was a long way to travel for such a short time visiting. A few years later visiting was allowed most days.
I always knew I was going to be admitted to hospital for another operation because when I came downstairs on a Friday morning there was a small brown envelope on the mantle piece behind the clock. This always brought lots of fear, I hated having the operations. I would be attending hospital the following Monday.
This meant over the weekend I could ask mum and dad to buy me another gift and get away with almost anything! I was a keen stamp collector and I can remember on one of these weekends before being admitted to hospital for an operation mum taking me to St Johns market and her buying me some expensive Russian space stamps showing the Sputnick satellite.
Another time as a teenager my treat would be a Ben Sherman Shirt.
Whatever operation I was to have, I always had a goal to aspire to. If the operation was going to be on my foot my goal was to be able to wear a pair of boots like Paul McCartney of the Beatles wore instead of the awful surgical boots I had to wear before the operation.
The day of my admission to Alder Hey was traumatic I cried a lot and between sobs I said I didn’t want to go to hospital. I remember what the ward was like. It was painted yellow and had the most beautiful parquet flooring. The windows had large bottle green blinds which if you pulled them down and let go quickly they would spring back up on to the roller at the top of the tall window and the pull cord would get tangled round. To get them undone a maintenance man would be called to fix it. We used to get into terrible trouble when one of us caused this tangling.
On the day of the operation I was very frightened and it was not a nice day at all. If you weren’t awake already you were woken at about six o’clock. My last food was usually a piece of toast and a drink. This was followed by the dreaded ‘NIL BY MOUTH’ sign being pinned to the bottom of the bed. After that I thought that every trolley that came through the doors was the one to take you down to theatre.
The ward had an office on one side of the main door, on the other side was a glass room where the nurses did all the sterilisation of any equipment and bowls. When the large sterilisation unit opened there would be a cloud of steam which completely engulfed the room and would steam up all the glass. When that happened I always wondered if they were preparing my pre-med injection. Also with the pre-med injection came the most vile medicine called Valligan which was/is a horrible pink substance. This was supposed to calm you down but I used to get worked up about having it more than the operation itself. Then you were taken to theatre on a trolley. I remember looking up at the ceiling and seeing the theatre lights shining down on me, I was terrified.
On one occasion I was wheeled into theatre for my operation and there was quite a few film cameras and large lights, the operation Mr Dwyer was performing was being filmed. This and other procedures were subsequently named after him.
After the operation I found coming around on the F2 ward a very unpleasant experience, I had so much pain and was totally disorientated. It seemed to take 3 days to recover from the anaesthetic, you couldn’t eat and felt very unwell. Certainly not like the recovery time today. Only after this time could I start to think about having and wearing those boots worn by the Beatles.
After the operation Mr Dwyer would carry out his ward rounds on a Monday night. If he didn’t discharge you that night you knew you would be at the hospital for another week.
To try and cheer me up when I was in hospital my dad would often make up a song or a poem. I remember the following poem about the surgeon Mr Dwyer:
“…Mr Dwyer sat on the fire
The fire was so hot he sat on the pot
The pot was so round he sat on the ground
The ground was so flat he sat on the cat
The cat was so hairy he sat on the canary
And the canary flew away with Mr Dwyer on his back….”
My dad was a little crazy but good fun and he made me smile!
You knew you were on your way to recovery when you started to move bed and got nearer the day room an the one and only TV set. I remember there was one radio high up on one wall and every Thursday we could request a record to be broadcast. The most popular song that was requested was Teddy Bears Picnic.
I can remember being at the hospital at Christmas time and the nurses coming onto the ward which was in darkness. They were wearing their cloaks over their uniforms and carried lanterns and sang Christmas carols. Another treat at Christmas was the visit by Liverpool & Everton football players
Whilst I was a patient at the hospital I had school lessons every day.
Discharge day was a very exciting one. It would started early with a bath., you would be changed into clean hospital pyjamas. You waited on a chair near the door to be collected by your parents, you weren’t allowed to move. When my Mum arrived to take me home I would change into my own clothes and then there were the goodbyes to the good friends you had made and the lovely staff.
A very traumatic time on many a visit to F2. Was it worth it? Yes!