On the theme of favourite things, this doll has been with me since I was eight years old. She came with a big bunch of flowers my dad sent me when I was hospitalised with meningitis. It was a weird time and I felt quite special receiving my very own bouquet of flowers, with a little doll on the front too!
I think having a serious illness as a young child can have a strange affect on a person, it was a surreal time, lonely, and frightening, very disconnected in a way. I remember telling my mum not to worry, that I wasn’t going to die. It was a very hard time for my family, my Nana Shirley, dads mum, had recently died of cancer after being ill for some time, and it was the first time I saw my father weep. Mum said that it was probably Nana dying that made me succumb to an illness.
My memories are very fragmented, I was in hospital for several weeks, I had mumps first, and I understand that is not so uncommon. I was so ill at home, with the worst headaches and just wanted to sleep so badly. When I arrived at the hospital, with unconfirmed meningitis, I was initially on a ward with other children, at Princess Mary’s Children’s Hospital. One night I awoke when doctors and nurses (I assumed) wanted to take me to have a lumbar puncture, but I got upset and wouldn’t go, I also remember an older boy in the bed next to mine siding with me and saying that shouldn’t try and do anything and that I was too upset. This was so weird, as an adult I have wondered if it was a dream, but I don’t think so, some part of me knew it would not be a good idea for me to go with them, it felt unsafe. I’m glad there was that other boy at the time.
The next day I had the lumbar puncture, and mum was there with me, it was awful, the procedure involves taking spinal fluid by inserting large syringe between your vertebrae in your lower back. I had to curl up, knees to chin, for a long time, motionless, and it was scary. The needle was massive, but I was also having blood tests every day, so needles were really not a big deal, they used to take my blood with those fingertip prickers in the morning.
Also I had a brain scan, which was awful, worse than the lumbar puncture as I was nil by mouth and had an injection with iodine solution which made me want to vomit the whole time. So I had to hold it until it!
After sometime on the ward with the other kids I was moved into my own room while I was infectious. This was a room with, I think, double doors, VERY sterile, and visitors had to wear gowns and masks when they came into see me. I was also visited by student doctors, several at a time, strange to be the subject of observation and study. This was particularly unpleasant.
I have fond memories of playing cards with Nana Joy, we played Canasta and did jigsaw puzzles. My Auntie Teresa sent me a package with puzzles and other goodies. My mum and dad used to visit, my dad used to come most days, I think, but my mum not so frequently.
Once I was home, things were much better, no more headaches of death, though I do still get migraines and headaches. I was supposed to drink this electrolyte drink, which was disgusting, I drank it all of course.
I also had my eyes tested afterwards which picked up myopia, though I was already shortsighted. Looking back over my school reports I’m not sure why this hadn’t showed up earlier.. but it was quite amazing, I had these, ‘Oh that’s what so-and-so’s face really looks like!’ moments.
Then I was one of those kids with glasses.