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A new hip joint – in 1910

The archives of the Radcliffe infirmary include an account of a ten month stay in hospital in 1910. It was written by a 20 year old man who had a new hip joint made from his own bone. He ended up with one leg two inches shorter than the other, but this did not hinder his living an active life as a farm labourer, and he lived to be 88. This is an edited version of his own story.

February 1910 I was first taken ill. I was seized with a very sharp pain in my hip, and could hardly get about, and unable to walk with a stick. So I was attended by Dr Caudwell of Woodstock. He could not make out what was the matter with me and said he thought I had better get further advice from the Infirmary as he thought I had got a slight strain. I went to the Radcliffe Infirmary to get further advice, they treated me as a slight strain in the hip or probably Rumathism. I did not get any rest night nor day. So he ordered me to the Briscoe Ward as I should have to stop in to have an operation. So when I got into the Ward I was ordered to go to the Bathroom to have a Bath and then go and get into No 11 Bed, which I did so. On February 21 the Nurse gave orders to the patients that were up that they were not to give me any food, which I thought was a very funny thing for them to do, but that was the rules. So I was prepared for my operation by one of the Nurses. I had my operation performed at half past one. And the porter came to fetch me on a trolly what they call the Donkey, and taken to the Theatre to be operated on by Dr Whitelocke [R.H. Anglin Whitelock]. So I had heather [ether]. I did not know anything more until the evening.

So days went on but I was never free from pain and could not rest. My operation did not turn out successful. So in the morning just a month from the last operation I was prepared for another one. I was then operated on by Dr Beavers [E. Cecil Bevers]. I was near Death-Door so it still went on, and I had orders that I should have to have gas to have my dressings done. I was kept on light food fish and milk. After I had ten lots of gas they said it was weakening me too much, So I had to have my dressing done without gas it was very painful. I laid on my back all the time. Then I had a large Bed sore on my back, therefore I had to lay on my side then it caused a large sore on my hip. Then I had to lay on a water bed to stop me from getting sore again. So I laid there quite helpless unable to move at all, as I had got Inflammation in my body and my leg. They quite thought I should never recover from it. I used to lay there longing to get home once again. One day I gave up all hopes and I prayed for God to take me out of it as I was such a great sufferer. But it was no good as one day Dr Whitelocke came round and he said Poor Boy. He then made motions to the sister about taking my leg off, but I am very thankful that they did not and I have still got it and able to walk on it again.

They would wake us up very early in the morning about 4 o’clock to wash us and Breakfast by half past five, then we were all prepared for when the days Nurses came on duty. Then we had our beds made following that we had our temptures taken. Then the Sister came in for prayers then we had our lunch brought round, when we had finished sister would come round to do our dressings. Then we had to half past twelve to our selves then we had dinner. From dinner time until three o’clock we could rest. At three we had tea, after tea we had our beds made again for the night and temptures taken again. At six we had supper and from six to eight we could smoke. Lights were put out for sleep at 8 o’clock. On May 1 I slept out on the varanda which I enjoyed very much.

Balcony of Briscoe Ward at the Radcliffe Infirmary 1910

Then my wounds began to heal up. Dr Whitelocke told me I should need another operation before I could walk. I could go home for a month to get strong for my operation. While I was at home I had to go on crutches but a nice time I had while I was at home.

I went back into the Infirmary again on August 28 to have another operation and a ruff time I had of it too. I had a piece of Bone taken from my Hip Bone and a false joint made. I was fixed in a box splint, it looked very uncomfortable but I was quite easy in it. I had 15 stitches in my hip and a tube to my hip bone. I had it sringed [syringed] out with lotion to keep it clean. I did not suffer quite so much this time. They did not give me any food for four days so it made me very hungry for the time, but when they started giving me food it was but very little. So it went on day after day with good patience and no worry and it graduly healed up, but very slowly. I was up five weeks and then I was presented with a pair of boots kindly given to me by a visitor as my leg was two inches shorter than the other due to my operation.

I am very thankful for what the Nurses done for me and the Sister but more especially Dr Whitelocke for what he had done for me.

Last updated: 28 August, 2018