Lynne and Philip were sent to stay with my mum, and sisters Sandie and Tina in rotation, which upset me a great deal. I hated the idea that they might think they were being pushed aside, while we stayed with John. Lynne, as usual, was very grown up about it, taking Philip under her wing and explaining all the whys and wherefores. Philip, however, didn’t accept the situation very well. He became jealous of all the extra attention. He resented staying with aunties, and also all the fuss that John generated. He once said to me ‘it isn’t fair: why is it always John that gets ill?’
Of course, we tried to make it up to Lynne and Philip. I wrote them letters and sent them goodies. We spoke to them on the phone each day and tried to explain what was happening, but I think Philip kept a chip on his shoulder for a few years. I was once again being torn in different directions. However, I knew that Lynne was very level headed and sensible, and that she and Philip were in good and very caring hands, so my time and attention had to be given to John who was really going through it and needed us more than ever.
Each morning I would see Arthur off to work, and then catch the train to the hospital. I would spend the entire day there, not only looking after John, but also helping with all the other children on his ward. Arthur would come straight from work at five o’clock and spend an hour with John and me. Then we would say goodnight to John and travel back to Oakfield road, telephone Lynne and Philip, and snatch a couple of hours to ourselves before going to bed. The next day it would start all over again. This went on for weeks and was quite exhausting, day after day. The only deviation to this routine was my driving lesson. Once a week, on top of all else, I would rush directly to the driving school and do an hour of reversing round corners or hill starting.
The day of my second driving test, which my instructor I and now knew I was capable of passing, arrived. Murphy’s law lay down that it was also to be the time that John was having his second hip operation. I must admit that, on the day, my mind was more on John than the examiner. I failed, but only just. Nothing worse than ‘driving too close to stationary vehicles’.
I really was shattered not to have passed, but decided I had far too much going on in my life at that time to continue. I would re-start driving lessons when John was entirely better: a completely wrong decision since, as it turned out, I never again sat behind the wheel of a car.
Not only did we visit John every day, but all my family at one time or other made the trip from Kent to visit, as did Arthur’s mum and dad, his brother Bill and sister-in-law Jean. This went on for weeks and weeks, and then they said that John could come home. He had plates screwed into both his thighbones, and was encased in plaster of Paris from his armpits down to his toes. He couldn’t sit up or move anything except his arms and head. The poor little mite had to eat and drink flat on his back. He couldn’t go to the toilet properly, and, since he couldn’t even partially sit up, wasn’t able to play or amuse himself. The only way I could go shopping was to take him laying flat on his back, on a sort of mattress on wheels. Life wasn’t easy, but it was wonderful to have all my children back home together.
When John said that he needed to go to he toilet, this entailed holding a bottle at a very funny angle, and a lot of strategic positioning, which used to make him laugh. But a week later, it wasn’t a laughing matter. He said he’s finished, and I removed the bottle from the bed. I nearly died of fright. His urine was the colour of red wine. I immediately made a phone call to the children’s hospital that said we should bring him straight back. I phoned Arthur who hurried home from work. Off we sped to the hospital, leaving poor Philip and Lynne with Aunty Minnie and Ruby, once again.
After more tests, we were told that John’s kidney had a tube running from it that was malformed. He’s been born with a ‘kink’ in the tube, which probably wouldn’t have given any trouble under normal circumstances. Because he’d been lying on his back for so long, there’d been a build up of calcium at the kink and a stone had formed. There would have to be yet another operation. Poor John was only three years old and was clocking up his third major operation. Once again he rose to the occasion and was the perfect patient.
This time he was already known to the nurses and Sister, and was treated like an old friend. The surgeon had to remove the plaster that encased John’ body in order to perform the operation. This time he had tubes running from the new incision and into a urine bag attached to his bed. He wasn’t allowed to run around with his bag on wheels like the other children, because of the troubles with his legs.When he was discharged from the hospital on this occasion, things were a little better. They decided to put the plaster on only one of his legs so that they could keep an eye on his new operation site. Now John wore a plaster of Paris equivalent to a pair of long johns with one leg cut off.