When I was four, I developed a limp. Visits to a specialist revealed that I had Perthes’ disease, which is (and I quote):

“… a condition in children characterized by a temporary loss of blood supply to the hip. Without an adequate blood supply, the rounded head of the femur (the “ball” of the “ball and socket” joint of the hip) dies. The area becomes intensely inflamed and irritated. Treatment of Perthes may require periods of immobilization or limitations on usual activities. The long-term prognosis is good in most cases. After 18 months to 2 years of treatment, most children return to normal activities without major limitations. Perthes disease usually is seen in children between 4 years and 10 years of age.”

My parents were informed that I would have to be hospitalized and fitted with a special, heavy surgical brace. It looked like an instrument of torture. I spent nearly a year in bed in hospital, just when I was due to start school.

The key to the healing process was to keep as still as possible. The other two boys in the photo had the same disease. They were older than me and more boisterous. Unfortunately, one was left with a permanent limp and the other had to wear a boot with a very high heel.

The one “plus” of my year spent in bed was the fact that a teacher came by every day and taught me to read. I soon learned to read beyond my years and developed a love of books. At Christmas, we were honored to receive a visit from Wilfred Pickles (see here), a famous radio and TV personality of the day (sowing the seeds of today’s celebrity culture?)

The photos were taken in the Evelina Children’s Hospital (see here). The original building was demolished in the 1970s. I spent time in several other hospitals over the course of the year but I was mostly in this one. Visiting hours were strictly limited so, emotionally speaking, it was a difficult time.

This is a visitor’s card given to Mum and Dad


On the back of the card its says no visitors were allowed on Christmas Day! Hospitals imposed a strict regime in those days