Thursday, 13 October 2011

Joyce Jones (nee Cole ) Sully 1951-53

( Caption – from left to right)
Betty from Swansea,Naomi Llewellyn Seven Sisters, Neath.
Cynthia Klase, Pontllanfraith, who was married to an American.
Ella, who died at Sully and the other patients were not told what happened.
Joyce Cole, from Tredegar now living in Sussex and Jennifer.

I received an email from Liz Owens to tell me that her mother Joyce Jones had been a patient in Sully for two years in 1950.

She suggests I give her Mum a call.

“How did you find out about my Sully blog?” I ask.

“Well, we have got a new laptop,” replied 83-year-old Joyce.

“ And I googled Tredegar- that’s where I come from – and after that I tried Sully.
And up popped your blog.”

Joyce has never revisited Sully or seen its transformation into up market flats so I tell her about it new status and she shares with me some of her memories of Sully when it was a state-of-the-art TB hospital.

Inside Sully

“Every bed had a sea view. It was an amazing building,” said Joyce who was taken ill just before her twenty-first birthday.

Medical treatment
During her two years there she had two partial lobotomies, (removal of a lobe from each lung.)

I tell her of the beautiful grounds which I got to walk for the first time when I revisited it last year even though I spent six months there as a teenager.
Joyce, it turned out, had never been outside either.
“ Most of the time I was too ill. The first 18 months were spent in bed.”

She had streptomycin and PAS, the life saving drug, which was still relatively new. The first trial of the drug took place in 1948 in the UK and Sully was one of the hospitals chosen for the study.
“ I vomited my heart out every other day- always at night. I can still recall the taste of PAS.”


She has fond memories of the staff in Sully in particular a young German nurse called Gerda who later visited her at her home in Tredegar.

Remembers after she had her second operation coming around in post op to find a wreath on her chest.
“ I thought I had died.”

A young nurse happened to be carrying a wreath when she heard ward Sister Cole call out to her and she was in such a hurry to answer that she dropped the wreath on the nearest bed she was passing.

“The poor nurse got an awful row from sister and I felt sorry for her.”

I must admit though it did give a fright. I thought I had died and passed over to the other side.’”

Each Christmas the wards would select a representative to go into Cardiff to do their Christmas shopping.

“Well, I was asked to do it one year just before I left and I was so thrilled. But Sister stopped me. She said I was not fit enough. I was so disappointed.”

“On Christmas Day the surgeon Mr. Dillwyn Thomas carved the turkey. We had a great time.”

“Yes I remember how men and women were kept segregated. I never heard of them mixing except once when we had some famous cricketers come in to talk to us and we were all allowed to mix in the recreation room. That is the only time I recall.”

“ But then you did not even mix with women from other wards.”

(Strict segregation between wards was part of the national policy at the time for treating TB patients for fear of cross- infection.)

Sugar and chips
Joyce recalls the incident when one patient, fed up with not getting “seconds” of chips because the staff kept them for themselves got hold of a packet of sugar and sneaked into the kitchen after the trolley had finished its rounds of the wards, and poured sugar on them.

They got their “seconds” after that.

Sully food
“ The food was not awfully good though there was plenty of it. I used to get an uncle to bring in a flask full of bacon, sausages and tinned tomatoes and I would share it out with the others in the ward afterwards.

Death of Ella
Joyce remembers Ella from Ammanford who shared her four-bedded ward.
“She never came back from her operation. Her name was never mentioned though you know she couldn’t have got well and gone home in such a short time.

“ A few of us asked what happened to her we were put off.”

Visiting was allowed every weekend. On Saturdays Joyce’s parents would take the bus from Tredegar and on Sundays, Pryce, her boyfriend made the weekly journey to Sully. He wrote to her everyday throughout her two years there, except on Sundays.

Once during very bad snow he left the house in Tredegar at 9 o'clock in the morning to get the bus, but it broke down in the snow and didn’t get into Sully until the bell was ringing for visitors to leave.
He asked for special permission to pop up to the ward to say “Hello” to Joyce.

But permission was refused. He did not get home until after 10 o'clock that night.

Joyce and Pryce did marry after she came out of Sully and five years later their daughter Elizabeth was born.
“I remember being told not to breast-feed her”.

They enjoyed 52 years of happy marriage until his death a few years ago.

Life today
Joyce’s health is not so good these days, for she suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis.

But her laptop offers her a window to the outside world and to memories of a world long past.

If you were in Sully in the early 1950s and would like to share your memories with Joyce she would love to hear from you.

You can contact Joyce on email through her daughter, Elizabeth Liz Owen

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