Tales and Yarns

My Gander Hospital Adventure

Author:  Garry Tizzard

My Gander Hospital Adventure


School was over sometime around the third week in June, 1959 and we had the whole month of July to wait before going to Hillgrade and Indian Cove. This was the end of our first year in Carmanville, having moved here last summer, 1958, from Centre Burlington, Nova Scotia. My father, Aubrey Tizzard, was a United Church minister and we moved around quite a bit. I would have to say that Carmanville was the nicest place yet. In May I was having some awful pains in my right side that seemed to get worse every day. I didn’t let on just how bad the pain really was but I knew it wasn’t going to go away by itself. Mother and Father had taken me on board the Christmas Seal earlier for my “scratches” and the doctor on board told them it could be appendicitis and that I should be operated on as soon as possible. I hobbled around half bent over for nearly two weeks trying to act as normal as possible, but to no avail. Finally on May 8th, father got me up at 6:00 a.m., checked my condition and finding it no better, got Mother up and after breakfast we drove up to Gander Bay South to Aubrey Eastman’s house. We still had the black 1958 Pontiac then. Grandmother Tizzard would look after Roger, Elizabeth and Malcolm while we were gone.

Father hired Mr. George Eastman to take us up the Gander River so we all got aboard his boat, which was actually a canoe, built with ribs and planks like a regular speed boat, but long and narrow and fitted with an outboard motor. These boats were designed specifically for use on the Gander River. We then headed up the Gander River to Glenwood. Glenwood is a small community on the Trans Canada Highway and about forty miles from Gander Bay. I don’t remember how long it took us to get there but we stopped once along the way and had a lunch. Mr. Eastman made a fire and boiled the kettle, while mother got the sandwiches, tea biscuits and other treats ready. It was fun but I definitely did not want to go any farther. I kept telling them my side wasn’t hurting any more and we could go on back. Of course they didn’t believe me and after lunch we headed up river again. It was still a lot of fun in the canoe, especially going through the rapids, the scenery was really nice and in a few spots we could see the snow on the tops of the higher hills.

When we arrived in Glenwood we took a taxi to Gander and went directly to the Gander Hospital. I was examined and told I had appendicitis and would have to stay and have an operation, not something I wanted to hear. Regardless of all my pleading that I was all right, I was here to stay and after a hurried farewell and a few tears on my behalf, Mother and Father left to go home. They got back to Gander Bay around 7:00 p.m. that evening, again by canoe.

It was the next afternoon when I was taken, in a wheelchair, to the operating room. I was frightened to death. I was laid up on the operating table and had some sort of a white mask put over my nose and mouth, and then the nurse told me to close my eyes and see how far I could count, in my mind, from 100 back to zero. This was kind of an odd request, but I had to do as I was told, so I started. At about the same time I started to count the doctor started pouring ether on the mask. I may have counted to 98 before I could smell it and then I started to get scared. Someone was holding me down because I was certainly trying to fight it off. However, it didn’t last long and the next thing I remember I was back in my bed in the ward.

The next couple of days were a nightmare, especially the first one. I could barely move and I did not want to use the bed pan. I tried my darnedest to get to the bathroom. This of course was a definite no-no and the nurses were quite upset when they found out I had torn a couple of my stitches partly out. Now I had to get that repaired and the doctor got quite mad at me as well. Anyway, I had to use the bed pan a couple of times but that was it.

By the fourth or fifth day I was pretty well over being away from my parents and had met a couple of people who were very nice to me, not that the hospital staff weren’t, but they were a little strict, especially when I took a wheelchair and started driving myself around. There was an older gentleman in the bed next to me, he couldn’t get out of bed by himself, and if the nurses weren’t around, he would get me to help him get his bed pan situated under him and remove it when he was done. Now let me tell you this was not something a nine year old boy wanted to do, but he was nice and kept me entertained by telling me of his days on the sealing ships, other schooners around the province, and trips to Nova Scotia and so on.

We got to be pretty good friends for a couple of days, but one night around two or three o’clock in the morning I heard him coughing and coughing, it went on for quite a while and there were doctors and nurses with him most of the night, so I was told, for I slept through most of it and couldn’t see what was going on because my curtains were drawn around me, as well as his around his bed. When I woke up the next morning the nurses were washing a lot of blood and heaven knows what all else off the wall by his bed, and he was gone. They told me he had died during the night. That was my closest encounter with someone dying right next to me and I might add, it was a little frightening.

The other person I had struck up a friendship with was a fellow a couple of years older than me, and confined to a wheelchair. He used to bring me comics to read. I bought a few myself, as they were only 10 cents each and Mother and Father had given me $5.00 to buy candy or chips with if I wanted. These comics came from a woman that came around to the ward every couple of days with a shopping cart full of books, comics, gifts, candy, gum, etc.

On May 19th, Mother arrived at the hospital expecting to take me home, as that was when the doctor had said I should be ready. But as I said before, I was not the ideal patient. If I had not been up around before I was supposed to have been, had not torn some of my stitches (which caused a bit of infection) and had not been tearing around in the wheelchair, then I might have been ready to go home. It was a bit comforting to know that Mother was going to be close by for the next few days, however, as she would be staying with friends in Glenwood or Gander until I was ready to be discharged.

The next couple of days went by rather quickly. I was feeling much better and my friend and I hung around together, traded comics and so on. As he wasn’t allowed out of his wheelchair and I wasn’t allowed to use one, I was given a good talking to more than once because I would go and get one whenever I thought the nurses were busy. On the day when Mother came to get me, my friend still had some of my comics and when I couldn’t find him, I had to leave without them. I was very disappointed as I knew Roger and Elizabeth would want to read them. Mother had told me to leave his comics, which I was planning to take with me, with the nurse at the front desk. What was I to do? I reluctantly gave them up.

Mrs. Gordon Collins had come to Gander with Mother, or vice versa, and was also going home on the same day as we were. She hired a taxi to take us to Deadman’s Pond where we would go from there to Carmanville by floatplane. The main purpose of this plane was to deliver the mail. Deadman’s Pond is a large pond located near the Gander airport, where the Newfoundland Forest Service had their office and camps. Anyway I thought this was very exciting, for I had never been in a plane before and it would be great telling the other children all about it. When we in our seats and had our seat belts on, the pilot checked us out and away we went. I thought this was the greatest thing in the world. It seems as though we had just gotten well under way when we were out over the harbour at Carmanville. We circled around once or twice and landed in bottom, just out from Woolfrey’s store. It was fun looking down on the houses, boats and wharves and the remains of the old schooner that had been wrecked years before in near the shore in bottom.

Father and Gordon Collins were waiting there on Doug Snow’s wharf when we came in. There were several other people there also, as well as Roger, Elizabeth, Malcolm and Grandmother Tizzard. What an exciting time, but boy was I glad to get home.

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