I don't know why I was thinking about Ward 9 when I woke up this morning, except that the autumn's always a bit of a strange time of year for me, and although it's a beautiful sunny day today there's a definite twinge of autumn in the air.
My first baby, was born on October 14th, 1984, prematurely, and died three weeks later. I won't tell you his name.
I was very ill afterwards with anaemia and, through a series of doctors' mistakes, fell through a medical black hole and the anaemia prevented me from eating more than the occasional carrot from mid-October until early December. until finally I turned an interesting shade of green and was carted off to a specialist who looked at me, turned nearly as pale as I was, and said I was to go directly to hospital and not even think
about going home first.
So, paying close attention to his instructions, I insisted on going home to wash my hair. And then I ended up in Ward 9 of Chapel-Allerton Hospital
The hospital was built to look after soldiers who were casualties of the First World War, and then expanded just before the Second World War, in anticipation of more casualties. They built some long Nightingale wards - those old-fashioned ones where there were long rows of beds - and Ward 9 was one of these.
In Ward 9 they very quickly gave me a massive blood transfusion which saved my life: I went from hardly being able to move and not being able to eat at all to being ravenously hungry.
Perhaps because it was a small hospital, the food was great, it really was, and the kitchen staff seemed to take great pleasure in trying to feed me up, because I was rather startlingly thin, too (yes, hard to imagine now, I know).
They hadn't been quite sure what to do with me, and so I was in was a ward for people with chronic illnesses.
I was twenty-eight. The nearest person in age to me was seventy-four. The rest were older. Some had Alzheimer's. It was all rather interesting, though very strange. I made friends with Kath, the seventy-four-year-old in the next bed, and kept in touch with her for some time afterwards.
On the other side was Brenda, who was a bit bonkers and spent the day putting on very thick make-up and then removing it and starting again.
Across the ward was a very old lady whose name I forget. She was always accusing everyone else of stealing her things, whilst simultaneously wandering around and leaving them everywhere. At the same time, she would rummage through everyone's lockers, thinking they were hers: of course "locker" was not a very accurate name, since they didn't lock.
She died in the middle of the night and I remember them trying to take her out without waking everyone up, and dropping something and making a very loud noise.
I was in that ward for what seemed like ages - perhaps it was only about two or three weeks - and then went home, looking forward to Christmas dinner like I'd never looked forward to it before (and it's still my favourite meal of the year).
In the Mansion, the main part of the hospital, some people were putting on a Christmas show for the patients and my first longish walk was to that part of the hospital to see it.
The day after the pantomime I was allowed to go home: but unfortunately I developed a blood clot in my leg which then moved to my lung, and a few weeks later I ricocheted straight back to Ward 9.
I don't think being in Ward 9 was particularly good for me in some ways as I'd gone from being a young expectant mother to being in what was, in effect, a geriatric ward, all in the space of a few weeks and I think I found it very hard to deal with that side of it.
However, the care I received in that little, old-fashioned hospital was superb, because everyone - the doctors, nurses, kitchen staff, cleaners, everyone - all made me feel that they cared about me and my recovery.
The ward I was in has now been demolished and there's new housing there. The old mansion, the original hospital, still exists and now looks like this
. It's astonishing for me to see it in that state as it seems hardly any time since I was there - - and it's very nearly twenty-four years.
I think Ward 9 will always be with me and I'll probably think about it every autumn. But, although most of the memories of the lead-up to my arrival there are bad ones, I'll always be grateful to the staff of Ward 9 for saving my life.