Tuesday, 15 April 2014

From Sully to Australia

Just received an email from Alan Workman, aged  80, living in  Australia who found this blog on the internet.

He spent some time in Sully and recalls how in the 1950s the heart and TB patients used to communicate though it was strictly forbidden ( for fear of infection) for  them to mix.

"We used to communicate with them by holding an orange in our  hand and  writing in the air in big letters , i had part of my lung removed, a major op in those days, but am now eighty and still going strong."

Great to hear from you Alan and to know you are fit and healthy.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Nurse Vivienne Griffin- 1970

Nurses quarters- Sully hospital

Nurse Vivienne Griffin did part of her training at Sully.
She contacted me today on email with this story:

“I did my nurses training in Cardiff Royal Infirmary, but we did our Pediatric training in Sully Hospital. L.G. Davies was the Cardiologist at the time.

We used to prepare the babies bottles in Black beards cupboard (I don't know who named it that) When we were on the early shift we used feed the babies on the ward and as it was January it was still dark. We would sit and watch the sun come up over the horizon over the sea.

Sometimes, when we were feeding the babies, L.G Davies would say 'right girls I've got 20 minutes you can ask me anything you want' He would sit down and draw diagrams of the heart and explain any abnormalities. We had a wonderful time there as we had to live in at then this was in January 1970.

She adds:
“ I just have to tell you Ann, I have many happy memories of Sully 
And I reminisce with my friend who was my school friend and we also did our training together. She remembers more than me and recalls so much more than me! She is visually impaired now, I so wish I could show her the old photos.  I might try as she has a strong magnifying glass.”

Well, Vivienne I do hope you are able to show your friend the photos. Would you like to share them with us too?

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

International artist ....and Sully

I got a phone call today from Maureen O'Kane, an  international mosaic artist based in Cardiff.

She has been commissioned to make work along the coastal path that passes Sully and after reading my blog, as part of her research into the area, she wanted to hear more about the time Sully was a hospital.

  She intends to incorporate a number of mosaics reflecting the hospital.


Thursday, 20 December 2012

Sully - art exhibition

I have just received a booklet on Sully from Jane Foreman, daughter of Dr  Bill Foreman, superintendent at Sully hospital.

It contains some fascinating photographic insights into life there and I was particularly interested in one photograph of an art exhibition put on by patients.

For it was an occupational art therapist in Sully who first introduced me to the world of drawing and painting though many years were to elapse before I became a full time student at Glasgow School of Art in the mid 1990s.

So, thank-you Jane for letting me see this booklet. It will provide an invaluable resource for this project.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Peter...from New Zealand

Dr Bill Foreman is one of New Zealand's most famous expats, something I did not know but it does not surprise me.

I have to thank Peter Isaac for the following information received today on email:

"Very interested in your work on Sully Hospital. It was pioneered by Dr Bill Foreman whose family was from Takapuna in New Zealand. I recall him well in the 1950s -60s in Dinas Powis.. Harold Mason Foreman, always known as Bill for some reason,  is a national hero in NZ for his courageous work in POW camps in WW2 and for his work at Sully. The hospital became a victim of post war hospital rationalisation circa 1960. The New Zealand Encyclopaedia circa 1966 has him among famous NZ expats in the UK."

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Pam Foreman-wife of the late Dr Bill Foreman

Dr Bill Foreman ( left) walking in the grounds of Sully hospital with Dr Len West

 Pam Foreman,  widow of Dr Bill Foreman, the hospital  superintendent at Sully

 offers some of her memories of Sully.

She recalls that surgeons practised open-heart surgery on sheep and afterwards sent them to one of the single wards kept for post-operative care in order to simulate as closely as possible the procedure intended for humans.

Such was the dedication of the surgeons and doctors that she recalls the wife of one surgeon saying that if she were a sheep she would see more of her husband.

Another  practise amongst those early pioneers of open heart surgery  was the procedure of lowering the body temperature to allow heart surgery to take place. This involved wrapping the patient in blankets then lowering him into a bath full of ice.

This gave the surgeons a six-minute window of opportunity to work on the heart.

Following the post-war period there were great medical advances made for the treatment of TB heralded by the discovery of streptomycin.

She recalls overhearing her husband discussing alternative drug regimes with another doctor:” If X doesn’t work let’s try Y…” then he added

 “ If this works then we could be doing ourselves out of a job.”

His prediction proved correct. For the new drug regime revolutionized the treatment of TB, which in turn led to surgeons retraining in heart surgery.

Even today former staff still speak with fondness of those far off days and the great family atmosphere engendered by Sully then at its height as a great model- hospital .

Some of that is due to the family atmosphere generated by Dr Bill Foreman, the unassuming hospital superintendent, from New Zealand, and helped by another Antipodean Dr Len West, from Australia.

Certainly Sully encouraged close contacts with doctors from Third World countries and many gained their qualifications in thoracic medicine there.

Sunday lunch at the Foreman’s for the foreign doctors was an established social event.
“Many had left their families behind and we offered then a bit of normality. They would play afterwards with our six children.”

On Christmas Day the Foreman children had to make sure all their presents were opened before 11 o clock because Dr Foreman had to go and carve the turkey for the patients.

On his return at three o’clock the Foreman family could then enjoy their own Christmas dinner.

Dr Foreman and Dr West (centre) with Sully doctors

Dr Foreman,  trained at the Brompton hospital in London, and he was appointed hospital superintendent at Sully in 1951.

 Aware of the isolation of Sully hospital from the rest of the community he recognized the need to introduce recreational facilities for the staff.

Through his foresight, energy and contacts with local charities Sully hospital got both a swimming pool and tennis courts for staff and radio and telephones in the wards for the patients.

He was awarded an MBE for his selfless work during the war helping the suffering of fellow POWs, a part of his life he rarely talked about.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Tony Blackwell- former patient- late 1990s

Tony Blackwell says: " I have fond memories of Sully."

Tony  contacted me after coming across this blog.

" I was a patient there in the late 90s when it was a psychiatric hospital and pretty much before it closed.

 I’m afraid I can’t remember the dates I was there or too much about it as my brain is still a little scrambled from the ECT treatments I had at another hospital. I was there for about three months I think and the place was sadly in some disrepair.

 I seem to remember that there was pretty much just the one ward open at the time – this included a special side ward for pregnant and young mothers with psychiatric problems.

 It was such a beautiful building and it was easy to see that at one time it would have been spectacular.

I remember  myself and another patient used to try and get to the dining room early for breakfast as there were glorious sunrises visible from that room.

 It seemed to me that, at the time, the building was being used to store a lot of NHS records. I can clearly remember a couple of us exploring another floor and finding boxes and boxes of dental records, for example.

Sculpture in the garden
 Another thing I remember is that, in the gardens overlooking the sea, there was a sculpture designed for a tactile experience for blind people. The sculpture had been at the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival and had somehow found a home in Sully after the festival closed. It seemed a little odd to me because, as far as I knew, Sully was never a hospital for the blind.

Hot meals delivered from Bristol
 Another thing I remember is that the services there had been cut so much that the hot meals for the patients were being prepared in Bristol (I think) and being driven to us each day. I know that sounds odd and maybe unlikely, but that’s what I remember. I also remember a few occasions where the vehicle had gotten delayed and we had our meals very late.

 During my stay I seem to remember that the female ward manager was attacked by a newly arrived patient and one of the other patients came to her rescue. I don’t know a lot of the details, but we didn’t see the manager again and the staff got very strict about patient supervision. The only other thing that comes to mind at the moment is that there was a small shop in the hospital that sold such things as sweets, cigarettes, toothpaste etc.

A safes environment
My psychiatrist at the time felt that I needed a break in a safe environment and that’s how I came to be sent to Sully. I suffer from chronic clinical depression and haven’t been able to work for the last fifteen years. It’s with me on a daily basis, but like any other disability, one learns to live with it.

 I wasn’t really getting any treatment at the time apart from somewhat rudimentary occupational therapy. I had previously had a couple of spells in Whitchurch Hospital in Cardiff, which seemed far better organised, staffed and equipped.

 But Sully, in many ways felt like a more relaxed environment. I think this had a lot to do with the relatively small amount of patients and, of course, the beautiful surroundings. I would often walk along the cliffs there and down to Sully Island and Cosmeston Lakes.

 I seem to remember that there was an ECT suite at Sully, although I didn’t receive that treatment there. Sully also seemed to be a place where recovering alcoholics were sent. Perhaps this was due to the remoteness of the hospital. I do know that some patients managed to get alcohol smuggled in and hidden on the grounds though. I have memories of a young girl who was at the hospital who used to get very upset about the gulls in the grounds as she became convinced they were laughing at her. Several years earlier my father was admitted to Sully when it was a chest hospital as he was suffering from bronchitis. I visited him just the once as getting there by public transport from the east side of Cardiff wasn’t easy. I do remember that it was a much busier place then. I have only a patchy memory of my time in Sully but I do remember it fondly – more so that the time I spent at Whitchurch Hospital.”

Thank you Tony for sharing your memories of Sully with us.