This story appeared on page 11 of the September 1998 issue of TAS POLIO NEWS.
I was born in the Queen Alexander Hospital on 21st July 1930; my parents were living in Port Arthur, moving to Hobart when I contracted Polio. When I commenced school Dad was working at a saw mill in Fortesque (Bay), too far and no transport so I stayed with Dad’s parents. Grandfather was the Guide from 1937 to 1954, when he moved to Bellerive with his family.
On the way home from school on the 11th May 1938, I did not feel well and Grandmother sent for the Doctor. After examining me he put me to bed. When he called next morning and asked me to get out of bed I could not move. I was transported to Hobart on the back seat of his car arriving at Vaucluse Infectious Diseases Hospital. I can still hear a voice saying, “we have another one”. I remember the diet of stewed apples. It must have been months before we could have solid food. The noise of the respirators was something we lived with for months, night and day. I was lucky, I did not have breathing difficulties.
Next I was transferred to the Children’s Ward, Royal Hobart Hospital and then to St Johns Park, upstairs from the senior citizens. From the time I was admitted I do not remember the time spent in each of the hospitals. We were moved to Wingfield House as I remember in late 1939, where I stayed for about five years; on discharge, an outpatient for about two years, traveling to and from the aftercare school by bus.
I had about three months on the invalid pension, then the Crippled Children’s Society (The Tasmanian Society for the Care of Crippled Children – TASCARE) found me a position at the Royal Hobart Hospital in the then-called Splint Shop, later upgraded to an Orthotics Department, commencing on the 8th December 1947, from where I retired on the 5th April 1991.
I thoroughly enjoyed my days at the Hospital. In my first twelve months, because of my poor education, I found it difficult to have a conversation with an adult. I was lucky to have worked with a gentleman, Fred Jones, who took an interest in me and from him I learnt a lot. I served many terms on the Hospital Employees Federation Union and the Hospital Staff Advisory Committee (the last two as chairman representing the staff on the Hospital’s Board) and I have served on many disabled committees. (What Doug means are committees of people looking after the interests of people with disabilities. I somehow doubt that a disabled committee would work very well!)
I firmly believe my schooling at Wingfield House and the Aftercare School could have been a lot better. I feel that if my arms and legs could not get me employment, my brain should have. They should have had better education for people with disabilities.
I was married on 7th July 1953. My wife Molly and I have five children, three boys and two girls, and seven grandchildren, three boys and four girls.
Over the years I have played basketball with the Tasmanian Wheelchair Sports Club to keep fit. Also competitive Table Tennis with the Eastside Table Tennis League (able-bodied) and the Tasmanian Wheelchair Sports Club. I have represented Tasmania in all states, bar South Australia, and in New Zealand in 1987. I represented Australia at the Far Eastern South Pacific International Competition (FESPIC) Games in Japan in 1989. I was a member of the Derwent Skin Diving Club and competed in their Spear Fishing competitions for three years. Also competitive Ten Pin Bowling in my family’s team for twelve months and full-bore rifle shooting with the Sandford Rifle Club for about ten years.
After forty-three years employment at the Royal I had a problem retiring, but after many changes, to me not in the best interest of the patients, it helped make up my mind. I believe it is going too far the American way – money.
Over the years I have heard many retired friends saying they do not know how they found the time to go to work, believe me this is true. Without looking, there is plenty of unpaid employment out there, but not enough unpaid employees.
In conclusion, could I say to those who have retired, or are not employed, give a little of your time, there are many who need your help, many hands make light work.