LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA is Huddersfield Parish Church’s new blog series that we’ll be keeping updated with posts from various members of our church in the coming days and weeks. We hope it will help you to stay connected to the church and to each other in this time of physical distancing as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Today’s blog post comes from Mike, one of our Churchwardens

Warden’s blog, stardate 1/4/2020 (Day 13)

Hello friends.

As most of you know I am a retired medic. Exactly 40 years ago I was in the middle of the second of my house jobs. I was working as an Orthopaedic Houseman at “Jimmy’s” in Leeds. In the last few days of March, we had discovered an articulated skeleton in one of the storerooms on one of the Orthopaedic wards. It had been used for teaching but one of its legs had become disconnected at the hip. It should have had a wing nut on the bolt attaching the two together. Over coffee (we were always drinking coffee) myself, some of the nurses and other housemen hatched a plan.

April the first was the changeover day for the Orthopeadic Surgical Senior Registrars and the new one starting, was due to work on a list in theatre on that morning. The operating theatres at the time were on the same floor as the wards so patients were only wheeled a short distance to theatre. Anyway, the Senior Registrar was not one of the popular chaps, so it was decided the trick should be played on him.

I was tasked, as the Houseman, to write up his notes after “clerking him in”. I went down to the admin, who were happy to help when they heard the plan, to get him a set of notes complete with an etched address label to print off “stickers” for his case notes and any investigation requests. I had to decide on his name, address and date of birth. His name was Arthur Wishbone, his address was Grave 6, The Parish Church, Leeds and his date of birth was 1/4/1880 (so the day of the trick was his hundredth birthday). I had great fun filling in his case notes.

Meanwhile, we had to decide on how to get him ready for theatre. We put him on a porter’s trolley and covered him with a sheet. It was too obvious what he was, so he needed some attention. First, we put on a blue operating hat and pushed cotton wool balls into the eye sockets in the skull. These were then stained in the middle with gentian violet. That made him look better, but we still covered his nose and mouth with an oxygen mask to complete the look. He still looked a bit thin, so we wrapped some sheets round his limbs to put a bit of “meat on the bone”. Remember his right leg was still not connected but we prepared this too and laid it roughly where it should have laid.

Almost ready to go, but I had to ask the Consultant Surgeon, whose list it was, if we could add this “case” as an extra. I don’t think he rated the SR surgeon, because he agreed wholeheartedly to putting it first on the morning list. The Anaesthetist was always fussy that everything in the notes should be correct, but she never visited the patients before the list started, so everything that I felt she would need was “normal” for Arthur.

On the first of April 1980, the theatre porter collected the theatre slip and came to the ward to collect the patient. He knew of the plan so took the patient to the correct theatre, with the ward nurse, and left Arthur in the anaesthetic room. There was a change in the anaesthetic rota, which we hadn’t realised, and so a very petite, heavily pregnant lady anaesthetist came into the room took one look at the very poorly looking patient and ran out of the room. We were lucky she didn’t go into labour there and then. Next into the anaesthetic room was the SR surgeon, who in true surgical style, without looking at the whole patient picked up the correct leg and said, “Is it this one?”. Well, the leg came off in his hands didn’t it, and only then did he realise the patient was a fake and he’d “been had”! The next little while was spent in great hilarity whilst we transferred Arthur back to a storeroom back on the ward, and the actual operating list continued uneventfully!

Back on the ward, the ECG technicians were doing the round of cardiographs for tricky patients. I said, “We’ve had a patient in theatre with problems. Could you add one to your list as an emergency please?”. They said yes and so I completed a request form with a sticker, in front of them and passed it over. They took one look at the details and said “It’s his hundredth birthday. Is it okay to do an ECG on someone so old? I said yes and sent them to the storeroom. A few seconds later they shot out screaming. Arthur Wishbone was not, it seemed, suitable for an ECG! They did see the funny side eventually.

The next time I was in the admin department, the folk there asked how the trick had gone and I recounted the story to them. That certainly lightened the mood in admin that morning. I returned to “Jimmy’s” in my training as an SR, about 4 or 5 years later, and on my first visit to the same theatres as an Anaesthetist, the Senior Sister said, “You’re the chap who brought that skeleton to theatre on April Fool’s day a few years ago. She had to tell the story again. I had become a legend in the history of “Jimmy’s Hospital.

Who would have imagined I’d be telling the story to lighten the mood 40 years later, as a retired medic and Churchwarden writing a blog during a major health crisis? I hope the story has cheered you up in a time of frustration and worry. Please keep faith, this crisis will pass, and we shall be able to meet again in due course.

The collect for 1st April:

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Yes those were the days Mike when there were enough staff to do the work well and enjoy ourselves!!

  2. Gordon Balmforth says:

    So there wasn’t a skeleton staff, then?

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