Do you have any connections with Sully, the famous TB and heart hospital? (1936-2001) either as a patient or as a member of staff?
Would you like your story added to this blog? contact me- Ann Shawfirstname.lastname@example.org
I was a teenage patient there and I have written a book
"Searching for Sully" - available from Amazon, paperback, price £9.99
Friday, 3 April 2015
Nurse Vivienne Griffin's story - Sully 1970
Vivienne Griffin always wanted to be a nurse ever since she
was a small child but her mother was against it.
“ She said nursing was too hard and poorly paid,” said
Vivienne from her home in Machen near Caerphilly. “She wanted me to be a
Vivienne, age 19, in Sully
So Vivienne compromised. She did a secretarial course first and
worked in an office for six months in Cardiff.
“ I hated it, I knew I would,” said Vivienne.
As soon as she was 18 years of age, old enough to start
training, she enrolled at Cardiff Royal Infirmary.
“I did three months of my paediatric training in Sully along
with two other girls, Lesley and Lorraine, from our village, Bedwas.”
She remembers her arrival at Sully.
‘We were late because we couldn’t find the hospital. We knew
it was in an isolated spot. Well, when we did get there we got an awful row
from the sister. She was very strict.”
The three girls had taken lots of books with them because
they reckoned there would be nothing to do in the evening except study..
How wrong they were!
Within days of arriving they discovered Sully Inn and they
used to walk there in an evening or sometimes they would hitch-hike into Cardiff
for a night out.
On their return they would have to climb in through the
windows of the nurses home because in those days you had to have a pass to go
out in the evening.
“Our day would start at 7am with getting the babies up and
we would all sit around the table feeding them while watching the sun rise over
She loved working with the babies though it had its share of
“We would cry our eyes out when we lost one.
Most were there as a result of heart defects brought on by rubella.
“One week we lost four babies. This was awful and I still
get upset thinking about it after all these years.
I had never laid out a baby before and I had to do it and
put a red carnation into his little hand then tell his parents. His mother was screaming and I can still hear
her screams today.
All the nurses were crying in a cupboard.
“I wondered why the place was suddenly empty. I managed to
hold myself together for a while then I went to the cupboard and that’s where I
found all the nurses huddled together crying. And I joined them.”
She remembers Gareth, a little blonde 4 year old, who used
to follow her around. He went up to theatre and she waited to welcome him back.
“Instead I was asked to find a shroud.”
Then there was the tragic case of the mistaken identity.
“We had one six month old baby with a very poor prognosis.
He never stopped grizzling. It was then discovered his mother had been given
the wrong baby.
And we had to tell the parents.
Once his real mother came in he stopped crying. But she was
distraught. Suddenly her healthy baby had been taken from her and she was given
this sick one.
She remembers too, the little girl
adopted by the technician who had operated the
heart-lung machine on her.
After her three months in Sully Vivienne returned to Cardiff
and worked in the Ear, Nose and Throat hospital and while there she met her
future husband. He was a fireman and had been injured in an accident.
Later they married and had three children. Today Vivienne is
long retired from nursing and lives in Machen, near Caerphilly.
Looking back she recalls how the lives of those three young
nurses developed, women who gave their time generously to looking after the
sick in society.
Lorraine with babies in Sully
“Lorraine got knocked down by a bus and died instantly at 29
years of age, Lesley developed cancer and is now nearly blind and I have got
“Yes, nursing was hard work and we didn’t earn a lot of
money. But I loved my time as a nurse.”
Their story highlights the debt of gratitude we owe to nurses,
to those who give of themselves so that others may live.