Lynda recounts her memories of life with JIA. It’s June 1953, around the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation oath. Imagine being 3 years old and you’re travelling to London with your mum and dad, by train as you don’t have a car, whilst your two sisters have to stay with relatives. But this wasn’t the start of a big adventure. I hadn’t been feeling very well and my knees were incredibly swollen, so I was being taken to the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital at Taplow in Buckinghamshire. A long way from my family home in Nottingham.
As we entered the reception I remember marvelling at the huge red cross on the floor, a feature I would become very familiar with during my five year stay. Pipes and vents lined the ceiling; white-coated doctors seemed in a constant hurry, whilst corridors were punctuated by benches for our weekly visitors, who were limited to just one or two hours per visit. For years I believed that, even though I couldn’t see them, Mum and Dad were waiting for me on those benches. They’d just ‘gone for a drink’. In reality Mum or Dad could only come once a fortnight to visit, but would often send me parcels and write letters.
I remember the food vividly too. Boiled chicken, junkets (custard-like milk pudding) and Energen rolls (light bread rolls) were offered to help counteract the weight gained by prescribed steroids.
The hospital did its best to keep us entertained. Various local entertainers came to our ward and, as special treats we were taken for walks in the woods to see the squirrels and the hospital goat. I particularly remember the bluebells that used to grow there. Even trips to the Physiotherapy Department offered some amusement, as the three-wheeled bike we used as transport would often become pedal-less, causing us to pit stop in the hope that some kind nurse would put them back on for us.
No memories of my five years at Taplow would be complete without mentioning Dr Ansell, a dominant and dedicated lady who cared so much for us that she regarded us as family. In 1983 I won a DISTA award and went to the award ceremony in London with my husband, Keith, whilst my young son stayed with my parents. Unbeknown to us, Dr Ansell was there, waiting. Despite nearly 25 years passing, her first words were “You need your hips doing” and, by 1985, she had arranged for me to attend Northwick Park Hospital to have both hips replaced.
She sadly died some years ago but I remember her with the greatest respect.
Since my hip replacements in 1985 I have had both knees, one shoulder, one elbow and both ankles replaced, along with revision of my original hip replacements.
Thankfully I no longer have to leave my family and travel to London but my days at Taplow shall stay with me forever.
Autumn 2010: Lynda Sisson