One of the great things about being mobile was that we visited the family, most of whom lived in Kent, a lot more than hitherto. It was on one of these trips that fate dealt us another blow.
My sister Tina (Croom) and her husband David lived in Erith, Kent. They had been very good to us when John was hospitalised, sharing the task of looking after Lynne with another of my sisters Sandie (Weechuff). It was good now to be able to visit them as a complete family and just for pleasure.
Tina and I were in the house, chatting and making tea, while Arthur and David played in the garden with the three children. They were taking turns to throw the children up in he air, and swing them round. Arthur swung John and, ever mindful of his bad legs, lowered him to the floor. As his feet hit the ground, John started crying and yelling. I rushed out to find David looking very worried and Arthur cradling a very distressed John in his arms.
‘Give him to me’ I said, gently taking him from Arthur… I looked down at his leg while I held him close trying to comfort him. I could see that the shape wasn’t right. ‘I think he’s got a broken leg’ I whispered, so as not to frighten John.
‘It can’t be, I was being very gentle with him,’ said Arthur, who was so upset to think that he was responsible for John’s pain. Tina rang for an ambulance and both Arthur and I were thankful that it had been Arthur’s turn to do whatever it was that caused the accident, and not David’s. Poor David was shocked and worried, and he wasn’t even responsible.
I went in the ambulance with John, and Arthur followed behind in our car. Since we weren’t au fait with the area, Arthur had great difficulty in keeping up with the ambulance, especially as it went through red traffic lights.
The doctor in the Casualty Department confirmed our worst fears. John had, indeed, broken his leg. The thought of him being in a Kent hospital for weeks, with Arthur and I in London, and the other two children with Tina and Sandie, didn’t bear thinking about. In any case, we wanted, above all else, for John to be cared for by Mr. Lloyd-Roberts at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
The Erith hospital agreed that, instead of plastering John’s leg, they would splint it so that we could lay him in the back of the estate car and drive to Great Ormond Street. They phoned he Children’s Hospital to let them know that we were coming and, after a quick phone call to Tina to arrange for Philip and Lynne to be left for the time being, we set off. The journey was a horrible nightmare for all of us. John’s leg was stretched out and on either side were wooden splints held in place by bandages. Arthur had to drive extremely carefully so that John’s leg wasn’t jolted by any humps or holes in the road. Each time the car jerked a little, John would scream out. All I could do to help him was to stroke his hair, hold his hand, and tell him it would soon be all right.
It was one o’clock in the morning when we finally arrived. John was taken into X-ray and we waited nervously for news. We were so worried in case his first operation had been ‘undone’ and he had been set back to square one again. The doctor told us that John would be put into traction and plaster, and we would know more the next day.
We crept into the ward to say goodnight to him. He was once again under sedation, tucked up in a hospital bed, in a ward that was dark and very quiet. With a lump in my throat I kissed him and we whispered ‘Good-night, God bless,’ and then we slipped silently away, and drove home to an unexpectedly empty and lonely flat. Before going to bed I went into the children’s room. I gazed at the empty beds and the rumpled nightclothes that had been discarded so excitedly that morning. How could such a lovely day out end in such a cruel, miserable manner?
It turned out that no one was really to blame for the accident. While playing, John had landed on the side of his foot. Because he had a steel plate fixed to the thighbone, the bone wasn’t able to bend as it normally would. Instead, the plate acted as a lever and just snapped John’s bone in half. It was one of those one in a million chances that happened.
John wasn’t too long in hospital this time and, in due course, the plaster was removed and we all settled back into some sort of normality.
To be continued…