Black smoke filled our historic Holden. Dad was agitated because he had to stop again to let it’s engine cool.
The trip to the airport was nerve wracking for my mother.
Will we get there in time? What’s my daughter’s future? How will my other six children be while I’m away for two weeks? These are all questions along with many more that went through my mother’s mind as we crept to the airport.
My mother was overwhelmed. She had short notice to find people to mind my six siblings. Without surgery I was going to lose the sight in my right eye.
If that was not enough to concern her our car was filling with smoke every few kilometres on the way to the airport.
Arriving at Hobart airport our plane was ready to taxi.
I was nine years old and about to go on my first airplane ride. I was so excited. My mother was upset because the plane was about to leave.
The old days are called the ‘good old days’.
Where was OH&S in 1966 when the airport authorities stood me and my mother, clutching my hand, onto the stairs then wheeled them to the plane?
We made our way up to the plane .however the door was not open and they wheeled the steps away from the plane so that this could happen. That left us with a big empty space in front of us.
My mother had a terrible fright!
She grabbed me tightly and said, loudly, “stop”. As I was about to step out into mid-air.
Safely on the plane I heard the power of the plane’s engines as they roared before takeoff.
The force of the plane pushed me into my seat as it climbed up and up.
After takeoff I watched the flaps retract into the wings, then the buildings, roads and cars turned into toys as it climbed further.
I tried to share these joyous experiences with my mother but she was too anxious to listen to my chatter.
When we were lost in the clouds I explored the contents of the seat pockets. My pleasure even extended to the discovery of the vomit bags
‘Fasten your seat belt sign’ flashed up and the pilot announced we would be going through some rough weather.
The plane bucked. I was thrilled and mum held tightly to her seat.
Oh goodness me! The man over the aisle used his bags. I watched as he grabbed them. He opened two bags as one. His meal landed on his lap.
After landing the next stop was the Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital.
The hospital had been built in 1883 and extended as the population increased. There were dark corridors and spooky rooms. I was use to the small Royal Hobart Hospital. This one seemed to have kilometres of corridors twisting and turning.
I was booked in for surgery the following day. My retina had detached and it was a delicate operation to reattach.
The procedure took over eight hours and after surgery I wasn’t to move at all. I had to stay on my back very still for ten days or more.
The children’s ward was full and I was put with the ladies in a ward with iron beds around the walls.
Amazingly smoking was permitted inside hospitals.
The lady beside me smoked. Her gas heater had exploded in her face and she had bandages on both eyes. When I was able to sit up I use to hide her lighter. She took my prank with good fun and use to laugh at me.
The nurses use to smack me for many reasons. One was that I wouldn’t eat meat. Another was when they wanted to shave my legs and I wouldn’t stay still because I was afraid of the shaver.
Looking back I was a frightened little girl who was losing sight in one eye and being terrorised by the nursing staff.
As children we have the ability to block unpleasant experiences from our memory. However, a happy memory was when my cousin came to visit me and gave me one of her old china dolls. The doll had dreadlocks and broken eyes but I loved her because she had a princess dress.
I spent two weeks in the hospital. The terrorisation by the nurses and patients smoking made my hospital experience one of the worst in my life.
The Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital was a training hospital. My detached retina was rare. This meant every student, with aspirations of being a specialist, had a look in my eyes. I hated the invasion. There was only one doctor who spoke to me kindly.
Flying home was nowhere as exciting as the trip to Melbourne. It may have been because I was in pain and sad.
I was not able to go to school. I had to wear a pirate patch for 8 weeks.
It meant many restrictions for an active little girl. I begged my mum to let me out to play. She eventually relented and I was promptly struck over the right eye with a golf ball size rock which reversed the surgery.
My mother had been removing the patch daily and testing my vision on a very colourful lounge room curtain.
After the rock incident I could not see the bright colours any more. The doctors would not redo the surgery.
As a child I was not concerned too much with the loss of sight. It wasn’t till later when I started to lose sight in my left eye that I wished things could have been different when I was ten.