Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Mosaic of patient- Warren Lewis

Warren Lewis was 7 years old when he was in Sully hospital in 1971 –link-
and he was the source of inspiration for a public art work by mosaic artist 
Maureen O’Kane along the coastal path near Sully hospital.

Today Maureen emailed me to say that this site-specific work is now complete, and I think she has done a brilliant job.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Nurse Vivienne Griffin's story - Sully 1970

Vivienne Griffin always wanted to be a nurse ever since she was a small child but her mother was against it.

“ She said nursing was too hard and poorly paid,” said Vivienne from her home in Machen near Caerphilly. “She wanted me to be a secretary.”

Vivienne, age 19, in Sully
So Vivienne compromised. She did a secretarial course first and worked in an office for six months in Cardiff.

“ I hated it, I knew I would,” said Vivienne.

As soon as she was 18 years of age, old enough to start training, she enrolled at Cardiff Royal Infirmary.
“I did three months of my paediatric training in Sully along with two other girls, Lesley and Lorraine, from our village, Bedwas.”

She remembers her arrival at Sully.

‘We were late because we couldn’t find the hospital. We knew it was in an isolated spot. Well, when we did get there we got an awful row

straightaway from the sister. She was very strict.”

The three girls had taken lots of books with them because they reckoned there would be nothing to do in the evening except study..
 How wrong they were!

Within days of arriving they discovered Sully Inn and they used to walk there in an evening or sometimes they would hitch-hike into Cardiff for a night out.

On their return they would have to climb in through the windows of the nurses home because in those days you had to have a pass to go out in the evening.

“Our day would start at 7am with getting the babies up and we would all sit around the table feeding them while watching the sun rise over the sea.”

She loved working with the babies though it had its share of tragedy.
“We would cry our eyes out when we lost one.
Most were there as a result of heart defects brought on by rubella.

“One week we lost four babies. This was awful and I still get upset thinking about it after all these years.
I had never laid out a baby before and I had to do it and put a red carnation into his little hand then tell his parents.  His mother was screaming and I can still hear her screams today.

All the nurses were crying in a cupboard.
“I wondered why the place was suddenly empty. I managed to hold myself together for a while then I went to the cupboard and that’s where I found all the nurses huddled together crying. And I joined them.”

She remembers Gareth, a little blonde 4 year old, who used to follow her around. He went up to theatre and she waited to welcome him back.
“Instead I was asked to find a shroud.”

Then there was the tragic case of the mistaken identity.
“We had one six month old baby with a very poor prognosis. He never stopped grizzling. It was then discovered his mother had been given the wrong baby.
And we had to tell the parents.

Once his real mother came in he stopped crying. But she was distraught. Suddenly her healthy baby had been taken from her and she was given this sick one.

She remembers too,  the little girl 
adopted by the technician who had operated the heart-lung machine on her.

After her three months in Sully Vivienne returned to Cardiff and worked in the Ear, Nose and Throat hospital and while there she met her future husband. He was a fireman and had been injured in an accident.
Later they married and had three children. Today Vivienne is long retired from nursing and lives in Machen, near Caerphilly.

Looking back she recalls how the lives of those three young nurses developed, women who gave their time generously to looking after the sick in society.

Lorraine with babies in Sully
“Lorraine got knocked down by a bus and died instantly at 29 years of age, Lesley developed cancer and is now nearly blind and I have got back problems.”

“Yes, nursing was hard work and we didn’t earn a lot of money.  But I loved my time as a nurse.”

Their story highlights the debt of gratitude we owe to nurses, to those who give of themselves so that others may live.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Margaret Smith- miracle surgery-

Margaret Smith, a former child heart patient, spoke to me by phone from her home in Jersey. She was admitted to the hospital as a four-year-old.

 “I was suffering from Ebsteins Syndrome a congenital heart defect.
“ It is now thought it could have been linked to my mother, who suffered from post natal depression, been given lithium during her pregnancy.”

“I became a patient in Sully Hospital in 1956 and attended out patients up until 1975.”

Born in Pontypridd, her parents had a long journey from the family home to visit her, which involved taking two buses, and her father had to take a day off work.

One day on visiting they got told they could take Margaret home.
 “I remember running up to them in just my knickers and vest because I had no clothes. These were all taken off you and sent back home when you were admitted.”

“So they wrapped me up in a blanket and I went home  - on two buses! It was either that or my parents having to make another long journey to get me. We had no telephone in those days.

Her memories of Sully are happy.
“I was only there for a couple of weeks but I remember it as a cheerful, sunny place where we could go out and play in the garden.”

The test of whether she was fit enough to go home after her operation was to run up 60 stairs.
“ There was no treadmill in those days,” says Margaret.

She knew Sully as a heart hospital and did not know until I told her that it was also a TB hospital.
(I recall how heart and TB patients were strictly segregated and we were never allowed near each other.)

After her marriage she asked the doctors if she could have a family.
While Dr Davies in Sully said yes the doctor she consulted near her home on the south coast advised against it and sent a letter to Dr Davies explaining why. Margaret still has copies of those letters.

Throughout her life Margaret has had to attend regular check up for her heart and she enjoyed a normal life until nearly ten years ago when her health deteriorated and she ended up in a wheelchair.

But a pioneering breakthrough came in 2009 when Margaret was approached by Victor Tsang, a world class cardiac surgeon undertaking risky repair of neonatal heart problems at Great Ormond Street hospital, London if she would be prepared, as the first adult in the UK, to undergo a groundbreaking operation.

“ Well, I felt I had nothing to loose,” she said.” It turned out to be a miracle. Within weeks I was walking again.”

Today she enjoys good health and loves taking long walks on the beach in Jersey with her husband of forty years.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

"Happy Days!'- Ceri Williams, Sully- 1970s

Every time 49 year old Ceri Williams* flies out of Cardiff airport she passes over Sully hospital, looks down and says to herself:
“Happy days!”

For Ceri was as a hole-in-the heart child patient there in the early 1970s.

She talks of her time at Sully with fond memories.

“I was very friendly with a boy called Kevin and we would run outside on to the beach in our pyjamas to collect crabs from the rock pools then we would carry them back and put them in the bath. The nurses would go spare.
Sometimes they could not find us to give us our treatment, or procedures, because we were out on the beach.”

She returned to Sully for regular check-ups throughout her childhood and adolescence.

Medicine moved on and at 24 years of age Ceri elected to have hole -in -the -heart surgery at Brompton hospital London.
“ This was very successful and it changed my life.”

Today she lives in Abercynon, between Merthyr and Cardiff, part of a close-knit family and community.

“ I asked about having children and I was advised against it. Now it’s too late,” she says.

 “ But I am happy, I have all my family and friends around me.  I have always lived in the valleys. I see no reason to move”.

*Ceri Williams nee Pritchard

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Staff nurse Janet Phillips, Sully- Australia

Staff nurse Janet Phillips worked in Sully during the 1970s.  She remembers it as a very happy period of her life and it was there that she met  and married Dr Keith Wong. Later they moved to New Zealand.

Tragically he died of cancer while only 45 years of age  and Janet brought his ashes back to Sully where they are scattered in the grounds within view of his old cardiac unit.

“I was 28 in the first one photo taken in the National Heart Hospital, London where I worked in the pediatric cardiac unit and I am 59 in the second photo – taken in Australia where I live now.
“ It must be the must be the good Welsh genes!!”

Janet says:
"I trained as a nurse at Llandough Hospital and visited Sully Hospital during my training. I knew that I wanted to work there so when I qualified in 1974, after my obligatory 6 months as a junior staff nurse at Llandough, I applied for a position at Sully.

“I started there on Powys Ward.. the thoracic medical ward...48 beds. This is where I met Dr. Foreman. He was a lovely man. I remember him telling me that he came from Takapuna. It meant very little to me at the time but later on I met and married a New Zealand cardiology registrar, Dr Keith Wong who came to Sully.
He was registrar to Dr Davies from 1976-78.
Later we went to live in New Zealand, and I visited Takapuna and thought of Dr.Foreman.

I was asked to transfer to the cardiology ward Morgannwg as a senior staff nurse and there I spent some of the happiest years of nursing career. There was an enormous camaraderie amongst the staff. Dr LG Davies was the senior cardiologist and he was an amazing clinician and a modest and charming man.
I lived in the nurses’ home while I worked at Sully. I was always very aware how fortunate I was to live somewhere where I woke up to the sound of the sea and the birds every morning. The ward patients also had this. What a wonderful place.

I left Sully in 1978 and moved to London and then to New Zealand. My husband became a consultant cardiologist in Christchurch. NZ.

“Sadly, at the early age of 45, he died after a short and sharp battle with cancer. I met him at Sully and completed the circle by bringing his ashes back to scatter in the grounds of Sully Hospital, within view of the old cardiac catheter suite where he spent so much of his time.
Sully Hospital will always remain in my memories.
It was indeed a very happy hospital. Everyone knew everyone (and what they were up to!).

In 2007 Janet moved to  Kalgoorlie, western Australia where she now lives  with her second husband who works as an anaesthetist.  And she has retired from nursing.

Meanwhile her children still live in the UK and her daughter lives in Barry.
Janet says:" I return regularly to visit them."

Thank you Janet for sharing your story with us.