Nurse On Call - The True Story of a 1950s District Nurse
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'Never had I seen so many fleas! Startled by the daylight, they leapt in all directions, particularly mine. Quickly I peeled off her stockings and threw them on the fire, but by now the fleas had invaded her combinations. As for the fur coat, I shuddered to think ...' Training in a hospital in the 1930s, Edith Cotterill's long hours on the wards included encouraging leeches to attach to patients (a task much harder than you might think) and the disposal in the furnace of amputated limbs. Although hospital life did have its compensations -- it was there during the Second World War an injured sailor who became her husband. After the birth of their two daughters, Edith returned to work in the 1950s as a district nurse. Whether she was ridding ageing spinsters of fleas or dishing out penicillin and enemas, Edith approached even the most wayward of patients with humour, compassion and warmth.
picking his teeth with the trocar which he kept in his pocket for that purpose. Night sister could stand it no longer. ‘Disgusting man!’ she snorted, and swept out like a brig in full sail. ‘Virgo intacta!’ muttered Pong in retaliation as he ambled out after her. I searched every place but I never did find Dracula and his disappearance was one more thing for ward sister to hold against me. I still continued to feed Daddy Clay his bowl of gruel at night, and on catching sight of me he would
scratch but would we, just meeting for the first time, have chosen each other now? Peering critically at my reflection I decided I wouldn’t have chosen me. ‘They don’t make mirrors like they used to,’ I complained ruefully, and GL chortled as though recognizing some essential characteristic. ‘You’ll do!’ he laughed and we embraced for the first time. A double bed is in itself an institution and the next morning we overslept, surely a good omen? I woke to find Elizabeth standing at the bedside
week (70p). In July GL came home for his last leave; at the end of it his naval career was over. Although there was an unseasonal fog on the night when he should normally have returned, we went to the station and waited for his usual train. It was very late coming and the station was deserted but doggedly we waited – just for the joy of watching it go out without him. Poor Elizabeth became very uneasy as time passed. ‘He’s a long time going back, isn’t he?’ she asked anxiously and when I tried
most beautiful little girl I had ever seen. The parents, sensing a compliment, smiled and nodded graciously; the angel child made a very rude gesture. Rebuffed I went in search of the next patient. He lay on a bed which shook beneath him, whether with fear or a rigor was not at first apparent. I made soothing noises and turned away to make my preparations. When I returned to the bed it was empty, as was the room. I peered under the bed and from its sanctuary saucer eyes peered back at me. I
she would be happy, I thought, but she wasn’t; she had no maternal instinct at all. Patiently Judith and Rob held the pups to her to let them suckle, which they did voraciously, but she gave them no encouragement and afterwards they bumbled about in their box mewling piteously and rejected. It took old Bandy to size up the situation; he went hunting and returned with a fat freshly killed mouse which he dropped in the box with them. ‘Why,’ cried Father, ‘they’re hungry and Bandy knows it!’ And