Sunday, 7 October 2012

Tony Blackwell- former patient- late 1990s

Tony Blackwell says: " I have fond memories of Sully."

Tony  contacted me after coming across this blog.

" I was a patient there in the late 90s when it was a psychiatric hospital and pretty much before it closed.

 I’m afraid I can’t remember the dates I was there or too much about it as my brain is still a little scrambled from the ECT treatments I had at another hospital. I was there for about three months I think and the place was sadly in some disrepair.

 I seem to remember that there was pretty much just the one ward open at the time – this included a special side ward for pregnant and young mothers with psychiatric problems.

 It was such a beautiful building and it was easy to see that at one time it would have been spectacular.

I remember  myself and another patient used to try and get to the dining room early for breakfast as there were glorious sunrises visible from that room.

 It seemed to me that, at the time, the building was being used to store a lot of NHS records. I can clearly remember a couple of us exploring another floor and finding boxes and boxes of dental records, for example.

Sculpture in the garden
 Another thing I remember is that, in the gardens overlooking the sea, there was a sculpture designed for a tactile experience for blind people. The sculpture had been at the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival and had somehow found a home in Sully after the festival closed. It seemed a little odd to me because, as far as I knew, Sully was never a hospital for the blind.

Hot meals delivered from Bristol
 Another thing I remember is that the services there had been cut so much that the hot meals for the patients were being prepared in Bristol (I think) and being driven to us each day. I know that sounds odd and maybe unlikely, but that’s what I remember. I also remember a few occasions where the vehicle had gotten delayed and we had our meals very late.

 During my stay I seem to remember that the female ward manager was attacked by a newly arrived patient and one of the other patients came to her rescue. I don’t know a lot of the details, but we didn’t see the manager again and the staff got very strict about patient supervision. The only other thing that comes to mind at the moment is that there was a small shop in the hospital that sold such things as sweets, cigarettes, toothpaste etc.

A safes environment
My psychiatrist at the time felt that I needed a break in a safe environment and that’s how I came to be sent to Sully. I suffer from chronic clinical depression and haven’t been able to work for the last fifteen years. It’s with me on a daily basis, but like any other disability, one learns to live with it.

 I wasn’t really getting any treatment at the time apart from somewhat rudimentary occupational therapy. I had previously had a couple of spells in Whitchurch Hospital in Cardiff, which seemed far better organised, staffed and equipped.

 But Sully, in many ways felt like a more relaxed environment. I think this had a lot to do with the relatively small amount of patients and, of course, the beautiful surroundings. I would often walk along the cliffs there and down to Sully Island and Cosmeston Lakes.

 I seem to remember that there was an ECT suite at Sully, although I didn’t receive that treatment there. Sully also seemed to be a place where recovering alcoholics were sent. Perhaps this was due to the remoteness of the hospital. I do know that some patients managed to get alcohol smuggled in and hidden on the grounds though. I have memories of a young girl who was at the hospital who used to get very upset about the gulls in the grounds as she became convinced they were laughing at her. Several years earlier my father was admitted to Sully when it was a chest hospital as he was suffering from bronchitis. I visited him just the once as getting there by public transport from the east side of Cardiff wasn’t easy. I do remember that it was a much busier place then. I have only a patchy memory of my time in Sully but I do remember it fondly – more so that the time I spent at Whitchurch Hospital.”

Thank you Tony for sharing your memories of Sully with us.

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