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On the way to hospital in her Daddy’s
car she sat quietly, remarking on things seen from the window. She held my
hand tightly and seemed apprehensive as we walked into the office to
register, and as we went into the ward. She said several times, “I don’t
want to have my tonsils out. I don’t want to stay in this hospital.”
When the doctor and the ward sister
(charge nurse) spoke to us she kept very close to me and said nothing. At
lunch she ate little, saying it was not the same as we had at home. And again
and again she said, “I want to go home. I don’t want to have my tonsils
out.” She showed no interest in the other children. She was cross with me
when I picked up a toy for a crying child.
For an hour I sat in our cubicle
while Jean went to and from the balcony, reporting back to me every few
minutes, as one child after another was examined by a doctor in the open ward.
She stood watching a toddler who cried loudly when his ears were examined. Her
report was: “The doctor tickled him, but he didn’t laugh.”
We were invited to join some of the
“up” children at play on the hospital lawns. Jean soon joined in the
games, and all her anxiety seemed forgotten. Her good spirits remained during
tea, which we had together in the cubicle. After tea she ran on to the balcony
and peeped through the window into the ward. When she saw the children were
being prepared for the night, she too wanted to have her nightie on; but she
agreed that as it was only 4:45 it was too early for her. Instead, she played
in her cot and pulled a hospital screen around to make a little house.
o'clock she was
into the ward to see television, but unluckily the anaesthetist came just
then to examine her. She cried when 1 brought her back to the cubicle, and
made examination almost impossible by her struggling and screaming. She took
no notice of the friendly advances of the anaesthetist.
After the anaesthetist had gone I
explained the nature of the examinations to Jean, and when the houseman came
half an hour later to examine ears, nose, and throat she seemed rather less
difficult. But shortly afterwards when she was required to sit on a very small
chamber pot to provide a urine specimen she was greatly offended by its size
and only used it after much persuasion.
At 6 o’clock she undressed
herself and climbed into her cot. She slept immediately. During the night she
scratched restlessly in her sleep for two hours, in a way reminiscent of her
eczema days two years before.
April 9th. Jean awoke at 6:3O am and wanted to get
dressed, saying, “I don’t want to have my tonsils out, I want to go home.”
She played with toys in her bed for a short time, but without interest or
At 9 am the ward sister came
on duty and told Jean she could get up and walk around in slippers and
dressing gown. Jean commented, “I like that Big Nurse. She is kind, because
she lets me get out of bed.” For the next hour she walked about aimlessly,
saying again and again, “I want to go home.—I don't like doctors and
nurses.—I don’t want my tonsils out.”
At 10 am she took her
pre-medication (two pills) from me with great difficulty. She could not
swallow them, and vomited one. Then she had another in jam. She was very upset
by this episode, and I found myself trembling at the knees. She sat quietly on
my knee for half an hour, and then had an injection (Atropine) which made her
She was by now very sleepy and
asked to lie in her cot. When I suggested that she should go to sleep on the
trolley, which was already in the cubicle, she said, “That’s only for very
ill people, because it has a red blanket.” She roused when I carried her to
the trolley at 11 am, but when I
spoke to her she relaxed and slept. In the induction room she roused again at
the first whiff of the anaesthetic, but seemed to go under quickly. She was
wheeled into the operating theatre, and my husband and I had an uneasy walk
round the hospital block. Twenty minutes later she was brought back to her
cot, the operation over.
As she returned to consciousness
she became very restless. She kept trying to sit up, with eyes closed; but her
movements were so uncontrolled that she had to be protected from hurting
herself against the sides of the cot. I talked to her, saying several times,
“Lie down, Jean. Put your head on the pillow and I’ll tell you a story.”
But she did not respond, and the ward sister intervened to give a morphia
injection which quietened her. It was then mid-day.
She roused every ten minutes and
cried a little, but slept again when she heard my voice. At 12:40 she asked
for her special “Noddy” story (the story I had promised during the
preparation for hospital). At 1:30 she opened her eyes for the first time and
looked around the room. She asked quietly, “Are my tonsils out? I didn’t
feel them come out.”
She slept again but awoke every
fifteen minutes or so complaining of pain. She calmed down again each time
when I spoke or read to her. At 4 pm
she asked for a drink, took one sip and cried with pain. She continued
to awaken every fifteen minutes and to say a few words and complain of pain
until about 6 pm.
At 6 pm she asked for the
potty, but insisted “Not in my bed—on the floor.” This was allowed. As
she sat she said in a bright voice, and as if both surprised and impressed,
“You were quite right, Mummy. My throat does
hurt a lot—but I didn’t feel them come out.” She drank a
Her restless doze
continued until 3 am when she became fully awake and apparently properly
oriented to her surroundings for the first time since the operation. She asked
to use the potty on the floor again. She drank with less discomfort, "I
like this drink." She talked a lot: "My tonsils are out now—!
won’t keep getting ill.—! didn’t feel my tonsils coming out.—When did
the doctor take my tonsils out?—Were you there?—My throat does hurt me
now.—You said it would hurt.—Can I get dressed when it is morning?—!
didn’t smell the funny smell to make me go to sleep.—! didn’t like the
pills, or the prick in my leg.—! didn’t feel my tonsils come out; that’s
funny, I thought I was in my cot all the time.—Can I go home the very next
day now that my tonsils are out?— Where is Daddy? Will he come every day to
bring me stamps? Why can’t Daddy and Katherine stay here too?"
After this barrage
of question and comment, which lasted for half an
April 10th. At 6
am she surprised herself by eating some breakfast. From 7 till 9 she stood
in her cot, talking and jumping about and very impatient to get dressed and on
to the floor. She said, "My throat doesn’t hurt a bit." I was sure
it did hurt and told her so. I told her again that her throat would be sore
but would get a little better each day. A minute or so later she cried and
said, "Yes, it really does hurt."
At 9 am the ward
sister came on duty and brought in the mail. She promised that at 10 o’clock
Jean could dress and sit on the balcony. Jean was a little shy at first, and
would not accept her letter; then with a laugh she snatched it from the
sister’s pocket. When sister asked, "Do you know where you are going
tomorrow?" Jean brightly replied, "Yes— homel" When the
sister left Jean said, "That Big Nurse is nice. She gave me postcards.
She lets me get up and go home."
A little later she
said, "I might want to stay here all the time, and
When I had to leave
the cubicle for twenty minutes I gave her pencils and paper to play with. She
seemed not to mind my going, but said, "Put up both sides of my cot, and
lock them. Then no one can hurt me when you are gone."
She would not let
any nurse take her temperature; and each time I
Many times during
the day she asked me to tell her how she got her tonsils out. Each time I
reminded her of what she already knew: "You had pills and a prick in your
leg, and you sat on my knee going to sleep. I was going to put you on to the
trolley with the red blanket, but you didn’t want that so I put you into your cot. When
the doctor was ready to take out your tonsils I carried you to the trolley and
I took you to the special room. I was with you when you smelled the funny
smell, then you slept the special tonsils sleep. The doctor took out your
tonsils and carried you back to your cot. Then I sat next to you and read you
After each telling she was ready with questions:
"Where is that doctor now? Where does he live? Will be come again? Where
is the special room? My nose hurts. Were my tonsils in my nose too?"
At 10 am we sat on the balcony and played with
cards. Although she had been jumping around in her cot, now that she was up
she was limp and listless. She objected to my showing interest in another
At lunch she tried several times to swallow some
semolina, but turned away in pain. I left her alone in the cubicle while I
went to the kitchen to find jelly. When I returned five minutes later she was
near to tears. Her tumbler of aspirin drink lay broken on the floor. She said,
"I couldn’t help it. I did drink some of it. I didn’t cut
myself." She had picked up the pieces of glass and placed them on the
side of the sink. When I reassured her that no one would be cross about it,
she said, "The nurses are nice. They don’t mind."
She went gladly to her cot and slept for three and a
half hours. After tea she played on the balcony, then walked with me on the
lawns. She was bright and cheerful, saying repeatedly, "I didn’t feel
my tonsils come out. I didn’t know, did I? Which room did I go into to have
my tonsils out?" Again I told her how it had happened—the pills, the
trolley, the anaesthetic, the operation, and return to her cot.
At 6:30 pm, the time when parents could visit
their children in the open ward, we sat and played with a child who had no
visitor; and stayed for ward prayers. Ward sister arranged that the hymn
should be one known to Jean, and this pleased her very much: "My Big
Nurse knows that hymn too."
When she got to bed she seemed very wide-awake, and
was unwilling to be left alone in the cubicle. She asked me to read a story,
then another and another, as if to keep me with her; and she said often,
"I want to go home now." She knew that next day she would go home.
April 11th. From 5 am she was impatient to get
dressed. She whimpered if my movements in the cubicle took me near the door;
she complained that her throat hurt, resisted having her temperature taken,
and refused breakfast. I moved her from her cot into my bed, gave her some
toys and she cheered up a little. After a while she worried again to get
dressed, with such insistence that I dressed her but put her back into her
cot. This satisfied her for a while, but soon she became fretful again.
At 9 am the ward sister came on duty and
allowed Jean to walk about. She played happily in the open ward, talking to
the children there and looking for her favourite hospital toys. She spoke in a
friendly way to her Big Nurse, but then shot a flying toy, which hit the Big
She was glad to see her Daddy when be arrived about 10
am to take