Who ties a child to a hospital bed?

This is marked 1954 taken outside our home in St Dominick's Terrace, Cork.
This is marked 1954 taken outside our home in St Dominick’s Terrace, Cork.
Some time after I wrote Facial disfigurement: A voyage around my face on this blog my newspaper published a slightly longer version of the blog and the same day I had a radio interview with the John Murray Show. A busy few days followed trying to keep up with the reaction.

I hadn’t shown my mother the original blog post, but when I did we agreed on a couple of alterations that I included in the article. We also agreed that I should interview her. And we did it in a very relaxed way some time later.

Her story is different in some aspects to what I published, but the essential elements are the same and needn’t concern us here. If there’s ever a book (and I certainly hope so) then that will be the definitive record.

We recorded the 40 minutes or so on my iPhone because that way she would forget all about the recording after a couple of minutes, which is exactly what happened. And so, with the occasional interruption from me, she told her story. And there were almost no dramatic developments in what she had to say about the day of the accident and the aftermath, although, as I said already, a couple of details were new.

What did surprise me – and has chilled me since she first said it – was her claim that I was tied to the hospital bed for most of the time I was there, 2.5 years. To say I was stunned is an understatement. How could a little boy, badly burned in an accident, be tied to a hospital bed? And for such a long time? The idea seemed grotesque, like something out of a horror movie.

Once I recovered from that initial shock I asked her for a little more clarity. She reckons I was tied up most of the time because they (medical staff) were afraid I would use my hands to scratch my facial and chest burns. True, but to have a child spreadeagled on a bed, each hand and leg tied to the metal bars, was unnerving.

I was inclined to think she might have misremembered, that the passage of time was playing tricks on her memory, although mum is a very active woman and mentally sharp. Which troubled me and left me more than confused and bewildered.

There was more. Mum also said I came out of hospital in such a bad state my legs were bent inwards and my arms were raised like a bird flapping its wings. Combined with my chin being attached to my stomach it must have made for a frightful sight. And indeed it did for she also said that when I eventually went home the boy who lived next door to us used to scream in terror every time he saw me. Most hurtful of all for mum was taking me for walks with my sister and little brother, I flapping my arms and walking crookedly while little boys followed behind us imitating me. It caused terrible hurt to mum.

And when I talked to my sister Lorraine about what mum had revealed, she gave the story another twist. Dad told her that I was in such a distressed condition in the hospital they recommended I be placed in an institution, which is why he took me home. That obviously was why he had told me he feared I would be institutionalised, so he removed me from hospital. It made a lot of sense given my condition.

However long I was tied to the bed there seems little doubt that I was affected to a severe degree, to the extent that mum had to teach me how to walk properly, this in the day when there were no physiotherapy or rehab facilities available, at least for me. Not to mention psychological help. I expected a few surprises when I began this blog, but not this. What else awaits me?


8 thoughts on “Who ties a child to a hospital bed?

  1. Oh dear. Considering how you were treated within that institution (hospital) – I’m amazed you’re so healthy Tom. Some people need lots of therapy after such treatment.

    “I was tied to the hospital bed for most of the time I was there, 2.5 years.” – beggars belief. Sharon’s point is so well made.

  2. Tom you have a wonderful way of using words, as I said before, I spent a time in Hospital as a child, I am in my seventies now, but you have made me remember, I must have tried to block it out over the years, again nothing compared to what you suffered. I remember the white sort of jacket being put on me which had one wide belt on it, it went around my arms and back. I know I would get very angry at times at the way I was being treated and until now always thought it was my fault when getting punished, usually a good slap on the thigh, and not allowed to talk to the other kids. The jacket I remember was used only a few times, but the reason I am only remembering now I think is after being home a few years and back in school, you would hear stories about people put in straight jackets because they were ‘ mental ‘. I closed up and would not mention it was used as punishment for me, as children we can be very cruel to each other with out realizing the damage we can cause. Any way Tom keep going with these wonderful although haunting stories of your life, a book in the making, apologise for the rambling, but you have actually helped me this evening, to know I was not the bad one, it was the way things were done in those days.

  3. AH Crap Tom, That’s pure torture. we put little mittens on infants so they don’t scratch- think you should be talking to legal! and a good psychoanalyst to help you through these revelations ~

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