Do you have any connections with Sully during the time it was a hospital either as a patient or as a member of staff?
If so I would love to hear from you. I am writing a book on its history using this blog as a research tool.
My name is Ann Shaw ( nee Rumsey) and I was a teenage patient in 1960.
Contact - firstname.lastname@example.org
or ring: 01786 832287
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
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
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
She loved working with the babies though it had its share of
“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
“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.
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
“I was suffering from
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
“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
(I recall how heart
and TB patients were strictly segregated and we were never allowed near each
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
Today she enjoys good
health and loves taking long walks on the beach in Jersey with her husband of
Every time 49 year old Ceri Williams* flies out of Cardiff
airport she passes over Sully hospital, looks down and says to herself:
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
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”.
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
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!!”
"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.
was registrar to Dr Davies from 1976-78.
we went to live in New Zealand, and I visited Takapuna and thought of
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.
“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
It was indeed a very happy hospital. Everyone
knew everyone (and what they were up to!).
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."