I had 30 small eye operations in the Wolverhampton Eye Infirmary before my 17th birthday. We used to joke it was my second home! On the occasion I am thinking of, I must have been around four years old but already I knew the routine well. No breakfast, eye lashes cut, A yellow medical-smelling stuff pasted around the eye, Atropine eye drops making me very thirsty and a very nervous tummy. I learned the art of quiet resignation and focused my mind ahead to waking up safe in bed and having a warm drink. But, on this occasion, things went badly wrong. I woke up in a wet bed, my wet. It was worse: As I shuffled my legs and feet about, the top sheet ripped and I was utterly obsessed with the conviction that it was all my fault. My fault that the drugs had taken away my bladder control and my fault that I had damaged hospital property! In fact, all my fault I was such a bloody nuisance. I worried about it for weeks afterwards. Crazy, I know and I have no memory, of course, of any one being cross with me or blaming me.
Generally, my hospital experience was fine, a tribute to my parents ability to explain things and give that reassurance and love which enables a young child to come through such traumas with confidence. A much happier hospital memory is of me and elder brother Dave driving around the hospital garden in our peddle cars the night before our operations were due. I felt like I was out on the main road in charge of a real car and the mask and the smell of chloroform were for a little time forgotten. .
Sister Burne was in charge of the Children’s ward at Wolverhampton Eye Infirmary for several years, always as I thought at the time. She was there for me as I lay on the operating table. I learned to relax and trust. As the mask was placed over my face and I was seeing multi-coloured sparks and counting down from ten to zero, she always held my left hand and gave that magic squeeze signalling that all is actually well. It’s never too late to thank her on behalf of myself and the other children she took care of.