Taplow Revisited

Taken from 2 articles written for us by Lynda in 2003 and 2010: Lynda Sisson

It’s June 1953, around the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation oath. Imagine being 3 years old and you’re travelling to London with your mum and dad, by train as you don’t have a car, whilst your two sisters have to stay with relatives. But this wasn’t the start of a big adventure. I hadn’t been feeling very well and my knees were incredibly swollen, so I was being taken to the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital at Taplow in Buckinghamshire. A long way from my family home in Nottingham. 
Taplow2As we entered the reception I remember marvelling at the huge red cross on the floor, a feature I would become very familiar with during my five year stay. Pipes and vents lined the ceiling; white-coated doctors seemed in a constant hurry, whilst corridors were punctuated by benches for our weekly visitors, who were limited to just one or two hours per visit. For years I believed that, even though I couldn’t see them, Mum and Dad were waiting for me on those benches. They’d just ‘gone for a drink’. In reality Mum or Dad could only come once a fortnight to visit, but would often send me parcels and write letters.

I remember the food vividly too. Boiled chicken, junkets (custard-like milk pudding) and Energen rolls (light bread rolls) were offered to help counteract the weight gained by prescribed steroids.

The hospital did its best to keep us entertained. Various local entertainers came to our ward and, as special treats we were taken for walks in the woods to see the squirrels and the hospital goat. I particularly remember the bluebells that used to grow there. Even trips to the Physiotherapy Department offered some amusement, as the three-wheeled bike we used as transport would often become pedal-less, causing us to pit stop in the hope that some kind nurse would put them back on for us.

No memories of my five years at Taplow would be complete without mentioning Dr Ansell, a dominant and dedicated lady who cared so much for us that she regarded us as family. In 1983 I won a DISTA award and went to the award ceremony in London with my husband, Keith, whilst my young son stayed with my parents. Unbeknown to us, Dr Ansell was there, waiting. Despite nearly 25 years passing, her first words were “You need your hips doing” and, by 1985, she had arranged for me to attend Northwick Park Hospital to have both hips replaced. 

She sadly died some years ago but I remember her with the greatest respect. Thankfully I no longer have to leave my family and travel to London but my days at Taplow shall stay with me forever. 

After my long term I had to return for regular monitoring for a number of years. Due to the Steroids, I have restricted growth (4ft 10 ins) and limited fixed arms and difficulty bending. I attended a 'Special' school in Nottingham as this was the 'norm' at that time. I did not get any educational qualifications and emerged with little prospect of employment. At 17 years however I managed to get employment in the printing trade as a Printing Finisher. I was there for 13 years. At the age of 27 I got married to Keith (we celebrated our Silver Wedding in 2002). 

For 3 years we tried unsuccessfully for a family. After a frustrating battle with the Medical Profession I was referred to a Fertility Clinic and eventually found a Gynaecologist. Eventually after 2 miscarriages I was found to have a hormone imbalance and treatment resulted in my son Colin, born Oct 1980 (8lbs 2oz). My arthritis has not stopped me getting involved in my son's growing up. We have followed him to football, cubs, scouts and even served on his school's PTA. He is now studying English at Loughborough University. 

Taplow3During the pregnancy I felt fine and my Arthritis actually improved, doing away with the need for my medication. However a short while after the birth I had a flare-up. In 1982 I was nominated for a Distra Award and met up again with Dr Barbara Ansell who greeted me with the immortal words "you need your hips! "True to her word, in 1985 she arranged for me to go into Northwick Park Hospital for the first Hip Replacement, the second followed later that year. This was followed by knees in 1988 and 1989. The right knee has been a problem and I have recently had revision surgery on it in Nottingham QMC to improve movement. My right shoulder was replaced at Nottingham City Hospital in Nov 2000. My husband and I are members of North Notts Arthritis Self Help 

Taplow3During my adult life I have been involved with PHAB and Nottingham & District Sports Club for the Disabled (where I met my husband who was a volunteer driver). I have appeared on Central TV's LINK when they featured Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have been involved with Disability Now's Campaign for Cold Weather Payments for the Chronically Sick and Disabled. I now take Glucosamine Sulphate and other supplements, which seems to help. For many years after my son's birth I was taking NSAIDs. Even now I wonder if they were really necessary or helpful. 

Best Wishes to you all Mrs Lynda Sisson (nee Rutherford).