Valarie Trevithick - Paralysis sets in

Running time
2 min 49 sec
Date made

Department of Veterans' Affairs


He had no aftereffects of the war, as I said, apart from that piece of shrapnel that was removed from his neck.

Now he smoked eighty cigarettes a day, I emphasise that point, and he started to feel numbness in his fingers, this was the second half of 1959, and these days you'd say that's circulation to do with nicotine etcetera et cetera and that sort of gradually increased.

Then he felt that his feet were affected and we saw, privately, a doctor who put him into Royal North Shore hospital to do some tests and as a result of that they said there was some spinal damage done, here in the cervical part of the neck and it was at that point that a couple of his mates from the 53rd Battalion had said to him 'I think you had better go back to the Repat' which was the Repatriation Department those days.

He'd not been near them for all that time, all those years, and he begrudgingly approached and they did all those tests and in November 1959, Doctor Dowling, was the neuro surgeon who operated at Concord Hospital, which was Repatriation General Hospital, and he said to me 'There is damage there which is the aftermath of these shrapnel wounds. We've relieved the pressure, but we can't do any more and we give him two years. He will become quite paralysed.'

He was admitted there two or three times after that, and they said to me 'You won't be able to manage him.'

And I said, 'Oh yes I will.' And so it was.

He lived exactly four years and six months. It was May of 1964 that he died. The last two years he'd become so paralysed that I washed, dressed, shaved, bowel washed, did everything for him and the last six weeks of his life when he was totally bedridden, I moved him every two hours in the bed to stop bed sores, pressure points from developing.

He said, 'I don't want to die in hospital' and I said 'You won't. You'll be at home.' And he was. Saturday the 30th of May, a month after his 68th birthday he died at home.

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