Post 20 A Nurse's 'Very Special' Patient.

As a part of my paediatric nursing training in 1963 at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, I was required to undertake a ‘patient study’.  It involved studying the care of an individual patient in detail.  I chose a particularly ill baby called ‘James’ (not his real name) who had a severe chest infection.   He was just twelve months old.   He had a collection of pus both within his lung and in the cavity around the lung, a life threatening condition known as an empyema.

 His father was a major in the army, so he was flown to London
from Germany, where his father was stationed, leaving his mother and three sisters behind.   Because he was separated from his mother, all the nurses on the ward gave him a little extra attention.   I certainly did!   In all he spent 6 weeks with us and in that time I got to know him especially well.   He was treated with antibiotics, spending much of the time being nursed in an oxygen tent.   He also went to the operating theatre to have the collections of pus drained. 

    All the while I carefully documented his care, by hand, in a red backed exercise book. I included some photographs of him, developed and printed at Boots; the high street chemist. 

Fortunately he recovered well although when he was eventually
discharged and flown back to rejoin his sisters in Germany, his parents were warned that he might suffer from chest problems in later life.

Fast forward to the 30 year reunion of my ‘nursing set’, the 36 students (all girls) who had trained together in the 60s.  It was held at the home of one of us who was married to a Brigadier and in a casual conversation with him I mentioned baby James, whose father had been in the army.   I commented how wonderful it would be  to send the family the red exercise book and the photographs, which I had kept as a memento of my training days. They had been gathering dust in a bottom drawer since those days!

Again fast forward to the following year when the brigadier sent me the address of the family and I was able to send the exercise book to them! 

 Then I had a magical and memorable moment that delighted me.   I received a long chatty letter from baby James' mother enclosing a photo of a handsome young man who had just completed a civil engineering degree at University.   The letter was six pages long and beautifully written, (I still have it). She said that James had enjoyed a healthy happy childhood, apart from the usual measles, mumps and chickenpox.   Fortunately he never had any ‘chesty’ problems.

Subsequently a letter arrived from James himself thanking me for ‘saving his life’.   In truth, the doctors and the entire nursing team did that but it was nice to be so appreciated!   I now have two photographs of him, one as a sick baby in an oxygen tent and one as a good looking 25 year old University graduate!

I  thanked his mother for contacting me and asked her the question which had worried me over the years.   It was about ‘bonding’.   Did  children and babies who were in hospital in the 60's and 70's  suffer from being separated from their mothers by the strictly limited visiting that was permitted in those days. In James’ case he did not see his mother for six long weeks . 
She explained in a later letter that because she had three girls under the age of six it was thought best for her to stay in Germany with them.   Fortunately, the army were able to give her a daily bulletin.   She said it was very hard for her but probably less so for James!   He settled back into the family well and was a very good baby, much loved and greatly spoiled by his three big sisters.

This story was submitted by Felicity Parkin, Joint Social Secretary, NW Surrey branch of the NHS Retirement Fellowship.

Quotation of the day

As cold water to a thirsty soul,
So is good news from a far country.                       Proverbs; chapter 25 verse 25

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