Evidently, I limped badly when I started to walk. The local hospital diagnosed this as weak ankles and my mother had to do massage exercises on my ankles.
A chance meeting in a local park changed all that. The woman who sat near my mother was a nurse at an orthopaedic hospital. She watched me walking and said, ‘That child has a dislocated hip. Take her to see …”
The upshot was that I was taken to the specialist she had suggested, and the diagnosis was confirmed. I had been born with a congenitally dislocated hip. This was in the 1940’s, long before any post-natal checks were carried out for the ‘clicking’ sound of a dislocated hip which can now be easily resolved..
The specialist who saw me was experimenting with a new method of correcting this kind of dislocation. Prior to WW2, the method had been to cut open and manually put the joint into place. The new experiment involved manipulation by putting the joint into plaster to ‘force’ it back into place.
I was a ‘guinea-pig’ in this experiment. I went into hospital in July, a month before my second birthday and came out 15 months later. For 12 of those months, I was in plaster (in a frog-type position) to correct my hip problem.
This, remember, was the 1940’s. At that time, parents were considered a nuisance. Their visits caused the children to get upset when they left.
My mother was allowed to visit for one hour once a month (yes, really!). On each visit, she had to take 4 stamped addressed postcards, and each week the nurse in charge of the ward where I was wrote a brief summary of my progress.
My mother saved all those postcards. I still have them. Very brief and mainly meaningless. ‘She has had her operation and is doing well’ – ‘She continues to do well’ (several times).
The best one was ‘She has been very naughty this week.’ How on earth could I be naughty when I was in plaster from waist to ankle and confined to bed? Hah!
I have absolutely no recollection of this time in hospital. Maybe I’ve blanked it out. I was 3 years and 2 months when I came out of hospital in October and my first memory comes from the first Christmas back at home.
But some of those postcards make me weep. ‘She is chattering away to everyone and anyone’ – ‘She is very curious and asks lots of questions.’ Yeah, well, I still do that!
It was only when I had my own children that I realised just what my mother and I had missed during the third year of my life. The year between a child’s 2nd and 3rd birthdays are probably the most formative years. The child learns to talk, the mother starts to see the real personality of her child.
I honestly don’t know how my mother managed to cope with that. If anyone had taken my kids away from me at that age, I would have been totally distraught.
But she thought she was doing the right thing – and in that era, she probably was.
I know now that separation from my mother during my third year resulted in a lack of real bonding with my mother. My father was away in the army until I was nearly four, so there was no bonding with him either.
I often wonder what long-term effects that separation from my parents has had on me as a person. I’ll never really know, will I?
Just as a postscript, I was hailed as one of the specialist’s ‘successes’ for his new method and when I was about eight, I remember being paraded in front of several American doctors as proof of his success. Over sixty years later, having been plagued by arthritis in my hip for over 30 years, I have to wonder about that ‘success’!
This post is in participation with the Group Blogging Experience, and this week’s prompt is children and/or parent(s). If you want to blog with us, go to the GBE2 Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome.