A PICTURE published in the Examiner’s Memory Lane slot on December 22 was headed ‘Multiple Nativities’ and showed eight Princess Royal Maternity Home nurses holding a pre-Christmas batch of new-borns in 1948.
It sparked a host of memories for Mrs Joan Andrews, 84, of Fartown, who at the time was training as a nurse at Bradford Royal Infirmary.
Her stint there was from 1945 to 1948, but when she eventually arrived in Huddersfield she worked with three of the nurses pictured.
After Bradford, inspired by a friend, she switched to Abergele in Wales for a year’s TB nursing, where she met her husband Eric, at the time a radio engineer whose career later took him into TV work.
In 1949, she transferred to Liverpool Maternity Hospital.
While there, the experimental Dr R J Minnit gas-and-air devices used for anaesthetic were being tested. They are still standard delivery-room equipment.
After basic nursing training, she entered the standard two-part training for midwifery at Princess Royal Maternity Home.
“For the first part of the course we had to deliver 10 babies in six months, and we tried to get to delivery before the medical students, who had the same target,” she said.
The second part of the course was ‘community’ work, and for this she was based at the Greenhead Road home for nurses.
“Things were, in hindsight, very basic,” she said. We were taught that our most important peri-natal instruments were our own ‘ears, eyes and hands’. Nowadays, you’re hooked up to a monitoring machine that takes the intuition out of it.”
During this training Mrs Andrews was privileged to be present at the first ever exchange transfusion to prevent the antibody clash that often occurs when a rhesus-negative mother gives birth to a rhesus positive baby.
“The Princess Royal nursed all its own premature babies using wooden boxes heated by electric lights underneath,” said Mrs Andrews.
Incubation units are much more complex these days, but Mrs A is a regular contributor to Huddersfield’s Christian African Relief Trust (CART) and knows that the wooden ‘light-box’ units are still incredibly effective in out of the way medical stations in Africa.
“You can’t re-invent the wheel,” she said.
Mrs Andrews qualified as a midwife in 1950 and became a staff midwife, then a sister, at the Princess Royal.
She went on to work at St Luke’s Hospital and the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, taking breaks to give birth herself to two sons – David (1953) and Peter (1957) before retiring in 1988.
“I still think that the uniforms looked more professional than those of today, but I accept that today they are more practical,” she said.