John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Medical matters

Early Days

Early 1950’s
 1. Dr. Davis, our family medical practitioner, seemed a quiet, mild-mannered man. So it alarmed me, in his surgery one day, when he threw a hypodermic syringe, dart-fashion, into my Mum’s freckled upper arm.
On second thoughts, would I be allowed to see that happen? On consideration, I think I did see this, because, since my other recollections of “pricks” are of a slow insertion of the needle, this method of administering the injection would stick in my memory.
2. Then, when the nurse came to our house, and my Mum was upstairs ill, she had hypodermic in hand, and must have seen my wide-eyed expression, for she told me not to worry, but had the hint of a crafty smile.

 3. Then I was in a building and I had to put my chin on a box which stretched my neck. This was in a long, dimly-lit corridor.
This must have been a chest X-ray at a hospital or chest clinic: my Mum had a suspected TB when I was about two; and this must also have been the reason for the nurse’s visits. It seems doubtful that the X-ray machine would have been situated in the corridor; my memory is confused here.
 4. It was Steven who first realised what was happening and where we were heading on one of the days that Mummy took us into Town on the brown P1 bus, and his panic spread to me. He must have become aware that she was not being completely open about where we were going and why, and concluded that the only destination requiring such secrecy was the “prick shop”. And he started to cry. As soon as the words “prick shop” left his lips and entered my ears, I started crying too. So there was my Mum on the bus with her two kids wailing and carrying on about the “prick shop”, and all the other passengers looking and wondering what on earth was happening.
Steven invented the word “prick shop” for the immunisation clinic, though it was I who thought up the word “prick knife” for the actual device used there. The reason it was called a shop was that, to our minds, it was just like any of the other buildings called shops that my Mum or Dad would enter while they were in Town: a place where they would go in and conduct transactions with a person who existed there. However, other shops were visited regularly; the “prick shop”, only very infrequently. And while I have very few recollections of fear when I was a pre-school child, the “prick shop” represented to me a place of infinite dread. It is in connection with the “prick shop” that I remember the word “diphtheria” first being used.
 5. Once—when I was taken to the “prick shop”—when the man put the “prick knife” into my upper arm (I seem to remember looking down at my left arm on this occasion), yellow blood came out! I remember this because I was surprised on another occasion when there was no blood at all, let alone yellow blood.
I am told that, because of the suspected TB in the house, we had inoculations; our Steve scratched his scab off, and the site of the injection became mattering and got a bigger scab; I admired this big scab and so scratched mine off. This could be the occasion of my memory of the “yellow blood”, though the memory itself is confused; one would not administer an injection on a site that had gone septic. The outcome was, I had to be inoculated again; this is why I have a scar on both arms.
 6. And then there was the time when after ascending several flights of stairs around a tall, echoing hall, I was taken into a room where there stood a man in a white coat. And then I suddenly knew what was about to happen; and I made to run away, but was seized by each arm: the left arm by my Dad, and the right arm by the man in the white coat. He was still standing ahead of me though, and in my struggling panic I slipped on the shiny floor and slid right between his legs. But they kept a tight hold on me and the “prick” was administered despite my whimpering protestations.
It seems appropriate in an article on medical matters, to insert the following information: When he was little, Steven experienced difficulty passing water. My Dad had had the same problem, and when he was about eight months old he was circumcised. So they took Steven to Dr. Davis. But Dr. Davis just made a swift cut within the foreskin with a scalpel; it bled a lot, but the problem was cured without the need for circumcision.

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