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The Story of Raymond Victor Noel


The site on which Ransom Wood is based was originally built as a TB hospital in 1902; it was designed with fresh air and well-being in mind — to the point of making residents sleep on open verandas, even in winter.

To give an insight into the history of this unique place this article explores the experiences of Raymond Victor Noel who was a patient at Ransom Wood in the early 1960s.

“In June 1962, the month that I celebrated my 39th birthday and at the time I was working as a knitter for a local hosiery manufacturer.  We worked the two-shift system (6am to 3pm; 3pm to midnight).  On the morning shift I travelled by bus and for the afternoon shift I mostly cycled — a distance of 4½ miles each way.

During the week that my problems started I went to work about half an hour earlier so that I could go with my colleagues to the local chest X-ray unit.  It was looked upon more as a pleasant half hour than anything really serious.  After all, we were all pretty regular attendees at work and various spare time activities such as gardening and home decorating didn’t give you much chance to become a hypochondriac.

I was naturally disturbed to get a letter a week later asking me to go back [to the chest X-ray unit] as they hadn’t got a satisfactory image.  I imagined that perhaps I had moved at the vital moment or that a slight technical hitch had occurred.

Back I went for more X-rays, one of my front and one of my back so that they were sure to get a good set of images.  A few days passed and then another letter asking me to return to see a doctor who was a very pleasant gentleman who seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of questions; mostly about whether I had had certain illnesses: pneumonia, pleurisy, and others, and if I had noticed certain symptoms.

I told him of an accident I had when I was in the Army; 18 years earlier I had broken three ribs.  The doctor confirmed this and said that the cracks still show, pointing them out on the X-ray image.

The interview ended and he made me an appointment for me to go to The Forest Dene, which was the Nottingham Chest Clinic and dealt mostly with TB.”

“Having been referred to a hospital that dealt with TB I now knew that something was wrong.  I didn’t like it but I accepted it as philosophically as I could.  As soon as I had arrived at Forest Dene I had another X-ray of my torso, more weighing and answering more questions; then I was called in to see the specialist.

A short, slim man, with two twinkling eyes greeted me.  He quickly put me at ease and said that I might have TB on one lung and that there was nothing for me to worry about — a handful of tablets would soon clear it up.  There would be no need for time off work and no need to worry.  Having a had a pay rise I was pleased that I wouldn’t lose too much either way.  After a skin test and further blood tests I left the Dene feeling like I was a hare and that the hounds were starting to chase and wondered if I would escape.

I returned to the Dene the following Thursday for the results of the tests.  I’d arrived early as usual and a rather surprised doctor entered the hospital and asked if I was waiting for him.  I was to give him a few minutes to get his coat off and then to go in.  Once inside I was told that I had TB, which was bad enough but what came knocked the wind out of my sails.  The doctor told me that the best course of action was to go straight to hospital; in  fact he had a bed lined up for me and transport would be laid on to take me the following Monday morning.  The doctor told me: ‘There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be out in about 4 months and back at work in 6.’

I sat there trying to take it all in; my thoughts were in turmoil and my emotions trying to make sense of the situation, but failing completely.  Seven days ago I wasn’t worried what they would find; tablets would take care of it and no time off work.  Now, everything seemed hopeless

The doctor must have guessed what I was going through because he said that I didn’t have to go to hospital, but that he was advising the best course of action.  He also needed to see my wife and daughter because they were at risk from having contracted the disease from me.

My mental turmoil subsided and I set my compass on a new course as all other considerations vanished; my wife and daughter must be safe-guarded so I had a busy weekend ahead of me to make my arrangements.

On my way home I went to the factory to see the managing director and explained my situation.  He said that I should finish immediately and he, along with some of my work colleagues, wished me a speedy recovery.

Once back at home I broke the news to my wife, which happened to be on the 19th of July, her birthday (she is still waiting for a present), and she was naturally very upset.  One of her biggest fears that the family would be shunned by the local community because of the disease; I think she imagined people shouting ‘unclean’, but she need not have worried because every friend, relative and neighbour continued as though nothing had happened.

I was especially relieved when my wife and daughter were given the ‘all clear‘ and could relax that they would be spared the trauma of going to hospital.

Monday morning arrived and as my daughter left for school I promised to write to her every day.  The taxi eventually arrived and after a brief farewell to my tearful wife I was on my way.

“When I arrived at hospital my particulars were notedand a bed was found for me. I had hardly time to get the feathers in the most comfortable position when dinner was served. After dinner a nurse appeared with a tray of my medicines and tablets; shortly afterwards another nurse in a mask asked me to present my posterior! This was my introduction to streptomycin*,which wasn’t pleasant but it wasn’t too painful either, but I realised that either way I had better get used to it.

Other than washing and going to the toilet I had to stay in bed most of the time. At certain times of the day we had to lie down and listen to various radio programmes with headphones. These were compulsory rest periods, but in between you could sit up and write letters or do occupational therapy.

During my time in hospital there was a regular flow of visitors, but my daughter, Susan, was never allowed to visit. Instead, at pre-arranged times I was able to phone her at a friend’s house, who very kindly helped us by putting the phone at Susan’s disposal when asked. Susan used to run home, beaming all over her face, to give her Mum the news and at my end I was equally delighted to hear her little voice coming over the wires.

I was eventually moved to a room at the end of the ward as my recovery was gradually getting under way.The view from the windows of my room was much improved; I often saw pheasants and occasionally deer would wander into the orchard, so one way and another there was always something pleasant to do in the way of nature study.

Apart from the therapy work, there was a splendid library service that came every week and there was a twice-weekly trolley shop from which we could buy toiletries, writing materials, sweets and cigarettes. In between therapy and letter-writing I learnt how to do embroidery and made teddy bears and poodles; I also tried cane work and made quite a few trays and teapot stands.

Every day the resident doctors did their rounds and the consultants saw me twice a week; we gave regular sputum samples to see if they were positive or negative; positive meant that we had live germs and negative that the germs were dead. The samples were taken to the labs and then cultures were grown to determine the outcome of the tests. Whilst the tests were still coming back positive, I was going nowhere!

“Although my tests were still coming back positive, which meant I was staying put, the doctors wanted to be absolutely sure that my daughter, whose earlier tests for TB were negative, was still free of this disease.

Her second tests gave her the green light but they administered a vaccination to give her some protection against TB.  After 8 weeks the vaccination was understood to be effective, which meant that as soon as my tests were negative Susan would be able to visit me for an hour.

The eight weeks dragged on as slowly as they could and I desperately wished the time away.  Susan was a Daddy’s Girl and I know she missed me terribly; if I could have turned the clocks forward I would have done it in a moment.

Time did pass and with a negative test I was given permission for visitors.  My patience was rewarded when I saw Susan and my wife get out of a friend’s car and head towards the main entrance.  When I walked into the reception area I whistled to get her attention and she came skipping to meet me and flung herself into my arms.  In an instant my 14 weeks of confinement evaporated as we chatted and caught up with all our news.  The hour seemed to disappear in a matter of minutes but Susan left smiling and waving in the knowledge that I would be coming home.  I felt a renewed sense of determination to get better as quickly as I could and I threw myself into making trays.

I was also now allowed to get up for an hour a day, which helped to build my muscles up.  After two weeks I had two hours of exercise a day and from this point on I gradually built up to walk a mile and a half without feeling too tired.

Having been confined to one room for 14 weeks it was a welcome site to see a fine crop of corn; when I had been admitted the fields were green but now they were golden and ready for harvesting.

I too was getting ready to go home and with every day I grew stronger.  After several more weeks of tests and checks I was finally given the all clear and telephoned my wife and daughter to tell them the news that I would be home that Friday.  I could hear Susan cheering and shouting as she took in the news of my impending return.

On the Friday a friend arrived at 7am to take me home armed with an array of medicine to keep me supplied until I went to see my GP.  My driver was one of the Midlands’ leading rally drivers so we had a very enjoyable run home.

When I arrived at my house I tip-toed to the back door and knocked.  Susan shouted: “Dad, you’re home!” and we hugged each other before she left for school. Not much was done that day as I had a constant flow of friends calling round as soon as they had heard that I was home.

The consultants were spot on with their prediction of 4 and a half months to be clear of TB and back at work within 6 months.  The consultants were wrong on one front: that I would be back at work in 6 months.  My employer had decided that they didn’t need me any longer and I was made redundant whilst still recuperating.  But with TB behind me the lack of a job was the least of my worries.

I would like to have thanked everyone by name who were involved in my recovery but I can only remember one name.  For fear of offending the nursing staff and consultants I can only really end this story with one thought: God bless them all.”

END NOTE

Having been given the all clear it took Victor two years to get another job.  Companies were not keen on employing people that had had TB, but eventually he found work as a knitter for a hosiery company in Nottingham’s Lace Market, where he worked until he took early retirement in his 50s.

Victor dies in 1987 aged 63.

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  • I love this place. I have worked here for the past seven years and I can highly recommend Oak House A.

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    Diamond Soft Furnishings

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    T K Construction

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    Michelle Edge, Manager

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    Focus Management For Business

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    Focus Management

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    NAVO

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    British Heart Foundation

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    Elaine Wilson

    Mid Trent Local Cancer Network

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