Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Brian Lee - South Wales Echo

I am very grateful to Brian Lee, a journalist with the  South Wales Echo,  who sent me the following article  he wrote on Sully hospital on 2nd March 2018.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Memories of Sully Hospital- mid 1970s

In response to last week’s article in the Barry Gem newspaper, Lisa Casson of Llantwit Major sent in the following memories of Sully during the mid 1970s.

"As a child I was often  brought to Sully hospital, as my Mother was a Radiographer, working full time in  the x-ray department.

Nets over the stairwell
My abiding memory on entering the hospital 
were the nets over the stairwells, at each level.
I was told this was to keep people safe.

Hospital smell
My next big memory was the smell, unique to this hospital and I assume, in part, due to this department and the associated things used within it.

The darkness too and overall quietness, which was not how I imagined a hospital should be.

Inside the radiography department
The staff room was straight ahead, with worker lockers just inside entrance. An extra room beyond this one had several x-ray illuminator (viewing) boxes, which I used to love to sneak in to and look at the pictures of bones all lit up.

At the end of the corridor was a row of chairs where the patients would wait, dressed in hospital gown, that I always thought was an odd choice of clothes at the time!

As a child inside the radiography department
Occasionally, if the patient agreed, I would be allowed to stand with Mum behind the screen while the x-ray was being done, listening to the clunk of the machinery used and recall everyone being still as the buttons were pressed.

 Sometimes too I would stand outside the room and wait, Mum talking about something called radiation.

Particularly evocative is the smell of the heavy rubber apron she would wear to protect herself.

Other members of staff
Grahame was a member of staff, unsure of his definite role, but I recall him as a porter, always friendly and happily connecting with the patients (mostly older folk who were always coughing) with whom he would keep company, or pushing them around in a wheel chair, but he also worked in the dark room, developing the films.

Then there was Mike, of similar position, and Menna, Mum’s boss, who was a super lady and dear friend to Mum. She has sadly died from cancer since, after the department was moved to Llandough hospital.

How the x-rays came to life
Within this small, dark room were the machines that made the x-rays come to life. This too is where the smells of this department were most prominent, I’m guessing down to the chemicals that were used in the processes of development.

 Although quite nervous going in, mainly because of the dark, I remember my eyes soon adapting and focusing in on the red lights that were in several places, this offering me points of reference.

The whirr and clanking of these machines in this small room was quite loud.

The reason why I liked to go into this room is because I would be allowed to press some buttons and I could then see the film displayed in the light boxes when done and would sometimes be charged with carrying the film down to the staff room if my Mother was there.

Stair netting
As for the stair netting I asked which people needed to be kept safe, and this was met with vagueness, which in turn made me want to find out.

Sneaking up to the psychiatric ward
The sign up to the next floor from x-ray said something like psychiatric ward.
I used to sneak up there when Mum was not looking, hugging the corridor wall, as I edged along towards the double doors at the end, which I could see were different, with obvious locking/added security in place.

I would always be nervous about seeing anyone, but most times didn’t, eerily quiet and devoid of people here, but I could sometimes here the noises - moans, shouting out, and once a crying scream.

 I would peep through the glass part of the doors, hoping to see something.
Occasionally I would see a shuffling figure move out of a room and into the corridor, what struck me was they all looked the same. At this point I would usually retreat hastily, heart thumping, running back down the stairwell, imagining someone was behind me, back to the safety and familiar smells of the x-ray department, never divulging where I’d been!

Family days in summer
In summer there would be family days, held out on the field with picnic food, games and general jollity. Whole families came so there were lots of children and we’d explore the amazing grounds, with boundaries imposed due to the terraced lawns that dropped down to meet the beach.

Visiting  friend who had been sectioned
My final memory comes much later as an 18-20 year old. I had a close school friend who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, who was sectioned there as a residential patient and I used to visit her. The ward felt light and modern, unlike my memories of before. The bedrooms were set around a communal area and I recall the staff being pleasant. We could use the gardens, often just sitting on the benches outside the rear entrance, looking down to the ocean, sprawling out seamlessly below from the grounds of the hospital. My friend enjoyed the company of a male resident who sadly took his life in these very waters sometime later.

Revisiting Sully 
So, to the last connection I have with Sully hospital. My Aunt used to work for The Design Commission for Wales and they were in tender for the development of the now redundant hospital site, which eventually became Hayes Point luxury apartments.

My Aunt was able to take my Mum back to visit the now derelict buildings, as she somehow had secured the keys. This wasn’t a wholly pleasant experience for my Mother, evoking lots of mixed memories.

Searching for Sully- Ann Shaw, paperback, £9.99 available from Amazon

Friday, 2 March 2018

Barry Gem- Tim Chapman article

Sully Hospital – a forgotten story no more

Local People
Tim Chapman
by Tim Chapman - GEM Reporter

A Welsh author has written an evocative memoir about Sully hospital

Ann Shaw spend six months there in 1960 recovering from tuberculosis.
Her stay at the hospital was at a time when there was still a very real fear that TB could be fatal.
She said: “I decided that it was time to write about Sully – after all I had kept the diaries of my time there and I had the time for the project.
“Coming from a farm near Crickhowell, it was a revelation to be thrown into the hectic life of Sully at that time.”
As a young child she had spent four years at a children’s sanatorium in the Swansea valley. 
Ann wrote a book called ‘The Children of Craig-y-nos’ which was short-listed for a national medical award, and she appeared on the BBC ‘One Show’ talking about her time there.
After her spell near Swansea as a youngster, she returned home, only to suffer a relapse years later which led to her stay at Sully when she was 19.
She explained that there was a huge contrast between the two hospitals.
“Craig-y-nos was very hard, austere and bleak. Sully was warm, modern and had all the latest stuff.”
Ann had a huge response to her book on Craig-y-nos, and hopes the same will be true of ‘Searching for Sully – Our stories’ which also includes anecdotes from other people who knew the hospital well.
“Sully was a model hospital of its time – innovative and pioneering. It is a story that has not been recorded in social history.”
The historian and journalist Chris Holme has described Ann’s latest book as “a fascinating insight into life and death at a TB hospital in south Wales from a patient’s perspective. At times hilarious, poignant and shocking, but compelling throughout”.
Anne believes the ground-breaking medical work carried out in Sully would make a fascinating subject for a PhD student to record.
She now lives in Scotland, having retired after a career in journalism, latterly on the Glasgow Herald.
“If any GEM readers have connections with Sully Hospital, I am happy to give away six free copies to the first six people who either email me at annshaw@mac.com or text me on 07543 671 260.
“All I ask is that they tell me a little about their connection so that I can mention it in my blog.”
Ann’s book is available at Amazon, as a paperback, price £9.99. It can also be obtained by request at Barry Library.
Her Sully blog is at http://sullyhospital.blogspot.co.uk/.
Caption: Ann returned to Sully a few years ago to do research and was taken on a tour of the building. She said: “The show flat turned out to be my old ward! At least I am pretty certain it was the one, though it had changed so much.”

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

I have just come across an excellent article written on the history of Sully by Andrew Melvin, a former journalist  now living in Canda.

It is available on the Free Library website. 

Cick on this link: History of Sully

Or read the article here:

 SULLY Hospital is in the news again - but this is not the first time it's made headlines. Andrew Melvin looks at its colourful history.

IMAGINE being struck down with tuberculosis. 

Not only are you in considerable pain and discomfort, but you know that there is every possibility that the disease could kill you. 

That was the reality for people everywhere not so long ago. But sufferers in 1936 had a great reason to celebrate: a hospital dedicated to saving them and others laid low by chest diseases was opened on the coastline at Sully. 

It immediately proved a great success, and for years treated thousands of people in pleasant woodland surroundings overlooking the Bristol Channel. 

Word of its high-quality treatment for so called "blue babies" struck by "the white plague" of TB, and youngsters suffering heart and chest problems, spread worldwide. But its popularity and reputation rapidly led to a nursing shortage. 

By 1952, 60 beds were regularly lying empty due to a lack of carers for those recovering from surgery, and Sully had to issue an urgent appeal for more recruits in order to prevent the beds remaining permanently closed. 

Improvements in medicine led to a decreasing number of TB cases, and in 1959 the hospital set aside 100 of its 324 beds for non-TB patients. 

That number steadily increased as its doctors began earning praise for their heart surgery, which involved using some equipment bought from chain stores and the selloff of former Spitfire parts. 

Doctors from around the world visited Sully, which for a time was the site of the Welsh School of Medicine's TB department. 

And it was frequently at the top of the shopping list for new hospital equipment, including an operating theatre which cost pounds 80,000 in the 1970s.

Other facilities were supported by donations from the public, including a pounds 500 appeal for an open-air swimming pool for the staff that was completed in the mid1960s.

However, the situation changed in 1973.

Heart surgery moved to the University Hospital of Wales at the Heath and acute thoracic cases to Llandough Hospital.

After lengthy debate, and protests from local residents and campaigners, it was decided that Sully would take geriatric patients and specialise in respiratory medicine.

But staff became increasingly concerned about a lack of resources and doubtful about the site's long-term future.

In 1977 William Evans, secretary of the Vale of Glamorgan Community Health Council, hit out after plans were unveiled to move psychiatric patients from Bridgend to Sully and then, he said, to Llandough.

If they went on to Llandough, he warned: "Sully will have no role and no future. It will become a dumping point."

And local doctor Gordon Williams said: "We suspect they are trying to close it."

The following year, only 164 of Sully's 202 beds were occupied, with 60 chest patients, 32 cardiology, 37 geriatric and 73 psychiatric.

Staff claimed the health authority was gradually running Sully down, and said that if it only housed the chronically sick, consultants and staff would be deterred from working there.

The authority replied: "There are no plans to run it down or turn it into a hospital only for the chronically sick, but it could become one of the best general hospitals in the next 10 years."

Hopes that Sully could be developed into a top orthopaedic centre were dashed when it had to accommodate patients from rundown Rhydlafar Hospital, and in 1981 it opened a psychiatric unit with 90 beds.
Hospital a setting for many events

THROUGHOUT its long life, Sully Hospital enjoyed an important part in the local community and strong ties with residents. 

And besides regular healthcare, it was the setting for many different events:

The Jane Hodge Trust and cancer group Tenovus stepped in to arrange the transfer of pounds 160,000 worth of X-ray facilities from a Cardiff hospital to Sully in 1987.

The 1988 replacement of traditional breakfast fry-ups with light continental breakfasts sparked a 200-signature petition from staff who said it was a sign of falling standards.

In 1991 a highly realistic mural of a 1930s grocer's store was used as a pioneering example of how artwork could help patients' treatment.

A row broke out in 1990 when it emerged that doctors launched human drug trials at Sully without receiving the go-ahead from top officials.

The breach of regulations was made public when a nurse was stabbed by a psychiatric patient undergoing a drug trial - although an investigation decided the experimental medicine was not linked with the attack.

Staff who worked during a 1989 strike were invited to see The Pirates of Penzance at the New Theatre, with the health authority footing the bill.

But the trip was scrapped after criticism from those who went on strike, among others.

In 1995, a psychiatric patient was found drowned at Hayes Point, up to three days after walking out of the hospital grounds.

Supporters spent pounds £4,000 in 1995 on a secret garden, a haven of peace and quiet where patients could enjoy the fresh air.

Operations made history at hospital 

HISTORY was made at Sully Hospital, as its doctors often took part in pioneering or unique operations.

It was at Sully, for instance, that surgeons practised a "deep freeze" technique to help prevent the damage to organs that could be caused by any interruption to the blood supply.

Doctors learned how to cool patients so they could be put into semi-hibernation, which meant the organs required less oxygen, slowing down the heart and preserving organs.

In 1951 a doctor at Sully won great acclaim after going against general medical beliefs and carrying out a chest operation on a three-year-old boy suffering from TB.

According to surgeons of the time, a procedure like that on the lungs of such a young child was unsafe.

But the Sully doctor persevered and, in a 60-minute operation, saved the youngster's life.

The hospital also conducted vital research using animals.

As part of a study into how to carry out lung transplants, in 1964 doctors managed to conduct a number of the operations - and then analyse the after-affects - using sheep bought from local farmers.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Sister Elsie Maud Morgan

Does anyone have any recollection of a Sister Elsie Maud Morgan who worked at Sully hospital from 1939 -1965?

A memorial flower stand to her has been found in the storage room of Sully church and community hall.

I am told by Mr Peter Morris, a member of the church, that they would like to give this flower stand, which stands at 3ft, to someone who has some connection with Sully hospital rather than just throw it away.

The community hall is in the process of being upgraded and there is no longer any place for it there.

It is understood that the vicar of Sully, who was also the chaplain at the hospital, rescued it when the hospital closed.

If you would like this flower stand then email Peter Morris on- pandlmorris@sky.com