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.
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.
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.
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.
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.