The road was newly tarred and the loose gravel had been left at the side of the road. We hit the gravel and went into a skid. Next thing we were flat on the road.
Ted stood the bike up and then I said “Ted my foot’s gone. I can’t see my foot.”
Ted picked me up and lay me down on the grass. I could see I was bleeding profusely and yet I couldn’t feel anything. Ted was wringing his hands and I told him to sit down but a car came along and he stopped it and asked for help.
There were four men in the car but they said that they were on the way to a wedding and couldn’t stop. They did however give him the white handkerchiefs in their pockets.
Ted came back and tried to stop the bleeding. By now I was going in and out of consciousness.
Another car pulled up and Ted begged him to call an ambulance. He left at once and returned with the ambulance. I remember the ambo saying I was out of their zone and they would ring Nottingham for us. I heard the man helping us say “That would take another thirty minutes. She’s losing blood and needs help now. Either you take her to Loughbro or I’ll smash your face in.” Another spate of words and I was on a stretcher and into the ambulance.
We learnt later that his fiancee was killed in a road accident only two weeks earlier which was why he became so upset.
I can’t remember the ride to hospital only a man asking me questions. I didn’t know he was a reporter. Goodness knows what I said because in the report a nurse saved for me I was forty years old, had two children and had left my husband. What a mish mash.
At the hospital my clothes were removed and my underclothes cut off as I was too weak to be moved very much. Some of the dirt was washed off and a doctor came to examine me.
The next I knew a nurse was saying “Just sign here”.
It had always been drummed into me by Uncle Fred not to sign anything without knowing what it meant. So I said “No”.
I was taken down to the hall ready to go up to the theatre in the lift. The doctor came and tried to tell me I could die if my leg wasn’t amputated. That wasn’t on and I refused again. Ted appeared and as my future husband was asked to sign it for me. I shouted “no!” at him and he refused. Then another doctor came over to see what the trouble was.
On being told I refused to have my leg amputated he had a good look at my foot and leg and then said “Get her up to theatre and I will see what I can do.” That was about the last I remember of all that was happening.
Somewhere a voice kept calling my name. I so didn’t want to answer. I was lying in a soft cloud and wanted to sink further in but that voice persisted and then I realised it was Ted calling me and I had to answer.
I opened my eyes to see the local vicar reading a prayer and my mother standing behind him with my sister. Ted was beside me and holding my hand. I learnt later that they were prepared for me to die and Ted was trying to get me to respond.
I remember my mother stepping up beside me and saying “You gave us such a fright. Police came at three o’clock in the morning and we had to get ready to travel up here.”
My sister started saying “You’ve ruined my chemise. It was brand new” but my mother shushed her.
Then they were all gone leaving Ted with me. A nurse came and gave me a drink and then I drifted away until the next morning.
As soon as I opened my eyes the pain started. The surgeon who operated on me came and stood by my bed. After a moment he gave me an injection and I was off with the fairies again. I was in this state for two or three days, time didn’t mean anything.
Ted appeared on the following Friday late evening. He was still working all week but travelled up to the hospital at the weekends and stayed with Ciss.
My leg and foot had been set in plaster and now arrived the time to take the plaster off. The senior nurse came and cut the plaster off taking a lot of skin with it. Then started the torture. Something had gone wrong when the plaster was put on and the wounds were full of white cotton threads. The nurse sat beside me picking the threads out. If they came out they were cotton but if they didn’t they were nerve endings. It was terrible.
I was reduced to a screaming mess. The man who owned the public house opposite the hospital told Ted that evening that they could all hear the screams and felt upset over it. Of course it wasn’t until Ted visited me that evening that he found out it was me screaming. He was upset and spoke to the house surgeon who spoke to the surgeon in charge of my case. The next thing I knew my torturer was being severely reprimanded and I was lifted into a wheel chair and taken to the dayroom. My surgeon here said how sorry he was for the pain and assured me it wouldn’t happen again. He was so nice and I had a very nice tea and agreed not to take it any further. Mind you, I couldn’t make out what I was agreeing to. I thought pain was part of hospital life.
I was having daily dressings that were not pleasant but bearable. Ciss had smuggled in a small bottle of parsnip wine and one nurse discovered it during a dressing. Saying she liked wine she scoffed the lot. Half way through the dressing she suddenly fell over. Getting to her feet we realised she was as squiffy as a newt. The other nurse quickly called two other nurses and between them marched the squiffy one out and said she was sick. The remaining nurse and I had a good giggle over it.
About now the house surgeon came and spoke to me each morning. Just to check up I think but somehow we became good friends. He would come in and take me to see the tennis being played. Soon he was taking me for walks outside the hospital. I enjoyed those walks.
One evening he came and sat beside me and I was shocked to see him crying. Without thinking I stretched out my hand and held his tightly. I could feel a terrible pain in him. Then he said “She died but suffered so much and I couldn’t help her”. After a short while he said “She was only four and her mother stood her on the copper lid to pull up her knickers but the lid fell in and the child was in boiling water up to her neck.
I couldn’t help her. I just couldn’t help her.”
He put his head on my hand and sobbed. Very quietly I pointed out to him that she had to die to stop the suffering. That she would have suffered for the rest of her life and that he wasn’t God to keep her living like that.
After a while he calmed down and thanked me for helping him, asking that I not tell anyone how he broke down.
It was a month after this, with him visiting me almost every day, that he came dashing up the ward waving a paper. "I’ve got it. I’m accepted.”
Then he told me how the little girl’s suffering had made him unable to operate so he had written for a place with a hospital in what was then east Africa. He was joining a group investigating persistent fevers in that area trying to trace an origin.
Holding my hand he asked if I would reply if he wrote to me as he felt a deep regard for me. Of course I said yes and he kissed me and thanked me for understanding when he could not let fellow doctors see his despair.
I received a letter some weeks later. It was a surprise as I didn’t think he was really interested in me. I was much too young to be on his level but he once more thanked me for my understanding and said he was looking forward to a letter from me. Of course I had to reply right away although it would take sometime to reach the area he was stationed in. I really looked on it as a communication between good friends. I received another letter in answer to mine in which he said he was going up country to find the reason for certain fevers that seemed prevalent there. I promptly answered and waited for the next edition of his work. Nothing arrived for weeks so thinking my last letter must have gone astray I wrote again. A letter came for me holding a shock. My dear doctor had caught the fever himself and had passed away a few weeks earlier. My letters to him were included and I shed tears over them.
During this time I heard nothing from my mother or Ted’s parents. Then Ted told me he had let his mother know we were engaged and she had hit the roof. That didn’t bother me until I received a letter from her. In it she said if I truly loved Ted I wouldn’t want him to be tied to a cripple. It would ruin his life and he was only sorry for me not in love with me. The room spun and the next I remember was Nurse Jones patting my face and asking me to drink from a glass.
Tears poured down my face and she held me until I quietened down. I looked for the letter but I couldn’t find it. Later I learnt the good sister had read the letter and then passed it on to my surgeon.
Ted arrived at the weekend and brought a ring with him. Apparently after saying he would leave home mother had capitulated and offered an aquamarine ring to save buying one. For peace and quiet he had taken the ring without telling her that he already had a diamond ring for me. I still have both rings and my dear, dear daughter will have them. They have quite a story.
Week after week Ted came all the way to see me. Only true love could have sustained this constant travelling. Only true love could have sustained me through the hours of terrible pain.
However one weekend he said he couldn’t make the next weekend but not to worry because his cousin, Ciss was coming in.
I was not happy but understood work came first as he explained he was needed to carry out a procedure.
The following weekend I missed him so badly and even Ciss didn’t make up for him.
Four weekends later my surgeon informed me that he had given permission for Ted to take me away for a long weekend. Laden with dressings and instructions for care we set out for the border with Scotland. We were going to Gretna Green. This was the town where the smithy was granted the right to marry couples without any lawful papers. Many times it was tried to take the right away but it had been granted by the king of that time and all the government had managed to insist was that one of the couple was a member of the local community and to be this one had to reside in the town for at least two weeks.
Ted had had advice and had taken a room at a boarding house for two weeks, because of getting the long weekend it was three weeks. We were covered for a marriage.
We went first to the boarding house to collect what Ted had had to leave there to prove he was in residence. He had an old coat hanging behind the door, a pair of pyjamas on the bed and a case under the bed containing odd pieces of clothes.
The landlady wished us all the best and gave Ted his rent book as proof of his required stay.
Back in town Ted visited the town hall while I sat in the car. The car by the way was one he had borrowed from Frances with whom he worked.
Off we went to the smithy. I can describe it to this day.
The door in was on the left with a row of horse stalls stretching down to the bottom wall, about ten of them I think. Half way down stood the biggest anvil I had imagined. All black and solid. There was a door in the bottom wall and on the right the wall had high up windows with cords to open or close them. Of course the important thing was the enormous fire. It was sitting behind a brick wall curved out from the main wall with an equally enormous set of bellows fixed to the wall for air to be blown into the coals. It was awesome. The smithy wore a black leather apron and I was struck dumb. I did manage to answer correctly and then it was all over. It seemed so quick. Two couples visiting wished us well and we were away. Mr and Mrs Leggett. Well what a surprise.
As I had to return to the hospital the next day we only had the one night together. We spent it at a pull in for lorries. There was a row of chalets and we were very comfortable. The nights were cold but this brilliant place had hot water pipes running in a line through them. Mmm! Comfort indeed.
The next morning we had brunch as it was a bit late for breakfast, and then we were on our way. A whole day and night before reporting in to the hospital. The world was shining bright and everything was new.
At the hospital I was quickly shunted upstairs and into bed. Ted came and said goodbye to me and I’m afraid I shed a few tears.
That same afternoon my doctor came to see me and asked if the weekend had been good. I started to tell him about Gretna Green but he said I couldn't tell him. I just had to keep our secret. He did however give instructions that when Ted visited me we were to have the curtains drawn around my bed to give us privacy. That was when I knew he had primed Ted about marrying at Gretna Green.
I had five operations in eleven months and without the skills and know-how of these days it was painful and there was so much suffering. I should grumble. At least I kept my leg.
So many things happened whilst I was in hospital. One night a woman in the bed opposite to me kept calling me Ruby and yammering away. I couldn’t understand her and started to doze off. The next thing this woman's hands were around my throat and I was struggling to breathe. Fortunately the woman in the next bed saw what she was doing and rang her bell furiously. Nurses came running and the woman was removed and next day sent to another hospital. I was taken to the day room where a doctor examined my throat, which was very sore, and after some massage and something I had to drink I was put back to bed. Ye Gods I was frightened. Poor Ruby whoever she was had trouble coming.