Career Champion: “Nurses, witches and radio serials”


Sally Champion

As Sally Champion nears the end of her 20-week blog series about the process of setting up a part-time business as a writer, she looks back at her life living with polio since childhood and reveals a longtime passion.

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Episode 18: “Nurses, witches and radio serials”

I’m six and in hospital. I can still remember the shape of the day. The shape only though. That’s the trouble just being with a whole lot of other kids. You depend on adults to provide some guidelines for purposeful activity. There were nurses and doctors there, but they had their own jobs to do.

In the morning we got up and made our beds, then we had correspondence school in the lounge. I also got a letter from my mother, everyday, that I couldn’t read very well.

Correspondence school was presided over by one nurse. I was hampered by the fact that I was a bit young to work independently. She was hampered by the fact that she was charged with the educational achievement of a whole lot of kids, of different ages, and failed to turn, conveniently, into a teacher.

After that we had heat treatment. We all had to go to our beds and wait until a nurse appeared with a stainless steel trolley with a steaming cauldron on top.

From the cauldron, pieces of steaming, scratchy, pink flannel were produced with tongs, and wrapped around your afflicted parts. Then you had to lie there until they cooled down and were replaced by other hot pieces of flannel, and on, and on.

Goodness knows what good it did physically, but it was a great training ground for anxiety. Evidenced, I think, by a repetitive dream I had for years afterwards about being kidnapped by nurses and taken to a witches’ party.

Whenever I had this dream I would promise the kidnapping nurses that if they let me go my father would pay them one million dollars. In the dream I felt very guilty about sentencing my father to a life of endless work to pay my ransom, but I also remember, in true survivor spirit, thinking it would be worth it, as long as I got away.

After lunch, the social highlight of a day in hospital beckoned. Each child had a daily appointment with the two doctors who presided over all treatment plans. I loved the feeling of having two adults to myself. I wanted to talk to them, but they thought I should be doing a series of repetitive exercises and walking up and down.  I must have really needed adult conversation because, before I knew it, I was telling them stories that had them completely enthralled. I still remember the quality of their listening. It was intent. It felt like I was creating a radio serial for them – each time I went in, they seemed to be waiting to hear what happened next.

The story centred around my father (who was completely innocent of the following crimes). “My father,” I whispered, “has a number of wives. He beats them,” I added.

“And he has got a lot of other children,” I told them, “hidden everywhere.”

Mercifully I can’t remember anything more about the plot of the radio serial, but I do remember feeling very dicey whenever Mum and Dad visited. They were warmly greeted by the two doctors, eager to give them a report on my progress. I was very worried about what would be in that report.

I went home at Christmas time. They were playing carols at the hospital. Even now, when I hear that song The Little Drummer Boy, I stand still for a moment, as if it gives me some kind of shock.

When I got home I told my mother that I was never going back to hospital again. Never, I told her.

I think that was quite assertive for someone who was only six.

Sally begins to look back over her blog series next week and begins to summarise her learning as a Career Champion.

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2 thoughts on “Career Champion: “Nurses, witches and radio serials”

  1. Mmm I don’t know. I’m ambivalent about whether this sort of information is useful in the public arena. I suppose it is even if it just shows that everybody is multi-dimensional. I do think that a lot of disabled people have experienced odd medical intervenrttions which may not have been terribly helpful in a holistic sense.

  2. wow how good of you to share such personal experiences. You write it so well. Maybe there is a book in you…?

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