‘my beautiful Mum’
We didn’t have a car. . .it was 1951. . .so public transport was how we got around. We were living in Ultimo. . Harris St, there was a small Men’s Barber shop at the front with a residence behind. We. . me, Mum & Dad were living with relatives and it was Mum’s brother’s father in- law that was the local Barber. I can still recall the light blue colour in the shop, the shape and the steps and door into the living area. . .that’s about all. . . .ooh and of course the little backyard. It was only about 6 metres square. . .all brick, with high brick walls.. . .don’t recall there being much of a garden. . .just an area to sit and play.
Well, Mum’s emergency signal was activated and she knew what she had to do. I read a bit about the epidemic in 1951 and how people were generally on alert. . . a lot of fear in the air, as the virus was targeting children. . .and consequences of infection could be fatal. Yes, Mum had laser vision that could penetrate steel. . .but add to that the heightened anxiety existing in the community. No one knew who would go down with it next. It appeared to target with random selection. . . .no-one being safe from its insidious energy.
Within a very brief space of time we were on the bus heading toward the hospital.
I really don’t remember much about the hospital’s environment. . .there are times I’ve spontaneously ‘gone back’ and awoken certain memories, but most of it’s still hidden. I have heard, that they may not have been the friendliest place for a child. . .the attitude toward children had a certain flavour back then. . . .’to be seen and not heard’.
Anyway we arrived, my poor dear Mum must have been feeling terrible. . .she ‘knew’ something was wrong. . .there was no doubt in her mind. After the usual waiting time, filling out forms etc. . .we went in to see the Doctor. “There’s something wrong with her” my Mother said. . the Doctor began his examination. Some time elapsed and “I can’t find anything wrong”. . . . “well look again”, “there is something there” Mum insisted. I can imagine the atmosphere. A young Mother with her little girl, a Doctor being challenged. . . .I can almost feel the vibes. But Mum insisted, she would not leave. . .Another examination, still nothing. . .”she probably just wants attention” says Dr. . .I can almost see the steam now coming from my Mum’s head. . .”she’s not that kind of child” Mum sternly retorted.
From personal experience, I can imagine, the atmosphere becoming very heated.
“Well, if you insist, there will be a specialist here late this afternoon, you can stay and see him if you want” was the Dr’s final response. . .so she did.
If I step back a bit and take in all the scene. . . it was 1951 and a Polio Epidemic was raging, children dropping. . .all over Sydney. Mum cradling her 3 yr old, sitting in a cold and sterile hospital ALL DAY. . .knowing something was wrong, and wanting someone to confirm it. It must have been incredibly difficult. But a Mother’s love is fiercely protective, nothing will get in the way of a Mother saving her baby.
Later that afternoon the specialist arrived and we soon went in to see him. . . the same procedure began, an examination completed. . .”There’s nothing wrong” the specialist says. . . .well I can just about imagine Mum at that point. . .ready to explode! “There is something wrong” she said, I want you to examine her again. . . .so very reluctantly he did. . .
and then “By God! I believe it’s the first stages of Polio”. . . “I knew there was something wrong” said Mum.
But I guess then the reality set in. . .and a very new chapter began. . .nothing would remain the same.