Topic-icon An old hospital, a distinguished nurse and a ghost

2 years 4 weeks ago #66 by Joan
In my discussions with nursing students about history, it seems that they have a stilted (? the right word) perception of great historical figures. It doesn't dawn on them that historical figures are people who experienced the challenges and obstacles of life, but overcame such obstacles and that is what makes them role models.

To me this is realization is important on many levels. It serves as a motivation to students who face great socioeconomic and academic challenges - they realize that "other people" also wrestle with life. It makes history not only dry facts in a book, but teaches them life skills: how did the "great ones" do it? How did they overcome challenges? (enters the reflective and critical thinking skills).

Lilian's description about a young nurse and the hospital ghost is probably not "serious history", but it illustrates that history is more than "dates and dead people" (as my one colleague said the other day) and that we can learn something from every past experience.
2 years 4 weeks ago #65 by Joan
In a recent email discussion about "the old" Kimberley hospital (now demolished - along with valuable archival material that was in the matron's office) Mrs Lilian Haynes gave an anecdotal account of her mother, Professor Charlotte Searle, as a young nurse in the hospital.
We quote it here with Lilian's consent:

Thank you Herman for this. I had never seen a picture of the old Kimberley Hospital before and had imagined it very different. I can imagine my mother working there now.

She often spoke of the Matron at the time a Miss (or Mrs) Burger, who was her mentor. She had great respect for her.

She once told me a story about her training days which involved being on night duty in the children's ward.

She said it was a very long ward with about 40 beds, with a table with a night light over it, and at either end of the ward double swing doors. The nurse on duty sat there bringing her patient notes up to date. As it happened my mother was studying for exams as well. There were no such things as nursing colleges then. Nurses studied at the same time as they worked.

Anyway she said that having finished her patient notes, she got out her text books, but she was so tired she put her head down on the table in front of her. Suddenly she heard the swing doors at one end open and close with a thud and she thought it was the night sister on her rounds, but footsteps went down the ward and out of the doors at the other end.

The next morning the night sister was doing her rounds, and when she asked a small girl how she slept she replied "Nie goed nie antie, maar die nuwe nursie het my kom reg maak en ek het toe lekker geslaap." The night sister said "En hoe het sy gelyk?" To which she replied "Sy het 'n lang gestreepte rok en 'n voorskoot gedra met swart kouse." My mother was very surprised, but the night sister gave her a look and said nothing.

Later on at breakfast that morning the night sister said "Nurse Pietersen I know you had a nap last night because Nurse Godber walked again.!"

It transpired that Nurse Godber was an 18 year old nurse who had died in the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 and the story in the hospital was that when the night nurse fell asleep she would look after the children in that ward! The description the child gave of her uniform was apparently what was worn in the early days.

This is the one and only "ghost" story my mother ever told.

Not exactly history I know, but it would be interesting to know about Nurse Godber don't you think? I remember you saying that the old hospital records were destroyed at some point, but maybe there are official births and deaths records which would show who died in the Great Flu?

However I don't think it would be worth going to a great deal of trouble. Just an interesting sidelight on the old hospital, and also an admission by my mother that she was not a paragon, just a young overworked student.

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