Today I went to our Doctor’s surgery to see Mum’s medical notes. According to the NHS Regulations when someone passes away the GP notes are returned to the Health Authority archive centre.
By the time I had made the decision that I wanted to see Mum’s early records it was too late, and they were already on their way to Exeter before being transferred on. A quick call just before Easter and I arranged for the notes to be returned to the surgery.
Today was the day of the appointment. A thirty minute slot. I wondered if it would be long enough. As it turns out it wasn’t; and also over the space of the last sixty-five years some of Mum’s notes, in fact everything prior to 1970 had been misplaced. That is all but two tatty pieces of paper. One dating from 1952 and another from 1957.
The nurse who sat with me was sure that there was nothing there, but I looked through, glancing at every piece of paper or card for the dates. I didn’t read anything else in-depth out of respect for Mum. That felt completely right.
The letter dating 1957 was found first. Looking very sorry for itself. I am surprised it was safely found in the notes. This letter confirms a surgery that I knew Mum had at around aged ten years. It shows that Mum was admitted on 7th November 1957 and then again on 9th November 1957. She was discharged on 22nd December 1957. Mum spent around 8 weeks in hospital. She was just 9 years old.
The second find was the crucial one, the one that I am so delighted I found. Neatly folded up with some documents that dated two decades later.
It was this letter that made me cry. It was so sad and I simply wanted to give Mum a hug of reassurance.
By the time Mum was diagnosed with Polio she had already been ill for ten days. She was 5 years old. How can a five-year old express the discomfort and pain that she must have felt? I never asked my Grandparents what it felt like. Mum though told me over the years that she had been terrified. She wasn’t allowed to have contact with her family. My Grandparents viewed her through a perspex window. The staff were matter of fact. This was the early days of the National Health Service. Decades before pediatrics nurses and doctors wore uniforms with teddy bears on.
There were some specific details that I had not been aware of, and mention of Mum being admitted to Ottershaw Hospital in August 1952 before moving to Rowley Bristow Orthopaedic Hospital a month later. I don’t think I knew that; or if I did, I have forgotten over the years. I guess when you think you have all the time in the world you don’t ask some questions. Big Mistake!
I now sit looking at these two documents and looking at this, my favourite picture of Mum. I feel so very proud of her. What she endured. It fair takes my breath a way.
I have more of a journey about the medical notes to take in the coming weeks and more research to do. I will be on this emotional journey for a while yet, but I absolutely need to take this journey.