Baby isolated at East Glamorgan Hospital

Alan Bennett contacted Smallpox1962 with this moving report of the impact of the outbreak on his family, 51 years ago.

On 7 February 1962 my second daughter was born at East Glamorgan Hospital. Mother and daughter were released a week later. A midwife visited the baby for the next ten working days. My wife Joan became anxious towards the ends of the midwife’s visits she felt that there was something wrong with the baby. On the last day, expressing her concerns to the midwife, the midwife asked if the baby was feeding and sleeping normally. Yes. No problem then! As she was leaving, my wife still expressing her concern, the midwife decided to return to the baby to check her temperature. 103 and the baby was collected and returned to East Glamorgan Hospital alone.

Returning from work that evening I learnt of the morning’s events and decided to visit our baby leaving my wife to care for our 3-year-old daughter.

Arriving at the hospital I had no problem parking. Entering the main foyer a young nurse was entering from a corridor on the right. She asked if she could help and I said I had come to see my baby daughter who had been brought in that morning. She seemed to be a little distraught and before she could say any more a sister appeared from an office behind the reception desk.

The young nurse immediately informed the sister why I was there and the sister said to me, “I’m afraid you can’t see your baby.” Pregnant silence. As we stood there in the foyer the sister must have realized I was not leaving until I had seen my baby daughter. Then into the foyer from the direction of the maternity wing came a porter pushing a trolley loaded up with all sorts of supplies. The sister stopped him and then said to me, “Go with the porter who is going to the ward where the baby is and I will phone the sister of the ward and warn her you are coming.”

So the porter and I set off through double doors at the side of the reception desk into a long enclosed walkway linking the main building to a separate building some 50 yards distance. While we were walking along I tried my best to find out from the porter what on earth was going on. All I got from him was “I know nothing and I just do what I’m told”. Arriving at the end of the walkway we stopped outside the glass doors to the detached building the porter rang the door bell and was gone.

Shortly after, a sister appeared in the small foyer behind the glass doors and we conversed through the closed glass doors. She advised that it would be better to phone in future to inquire about the baby’s condition. She then asked me to return part way along the walkway and go through a side door on to the outside lawns and make my way along the building to the third window and she would arrange for the baby to be taken to there.

Sure enough, three young nurses appeared at the window and the centre nurse was holding the baby. That was the last time I saw her for several weeks.

Reading through this excellent site I realized now, after all these years, that our baby had been considered a possible smallpox risk and was possibly the last patient to enter that isolation ward at East Glamorgan Hospital.

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