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U3A Writing: Keyhole Surgery

John Ricketts tells of an early example of keyhole surgery.

When the war started in 1939 I was twelve and my brother was 23. He went with a group of his pals to sign up and while the others were accepted he was horrified to be turned down on medical grounds. He had a hernia. It was a great blow to his pride as he was an athletic type, a good amateur boxer who had also won awards for swimming and diving.

Arrangements were made for him to have an operation to put the hernia right. He was called up to go to the hospital just before Christmas. He was sent to a small cottage hospital way out in the country. I cannot remember where it was but the name Clent comes into my mind. Before the war my father had given up his car and so we had to rely on public transport. The operation was done either late on Christmas Eve or early on Christmas Day. There were no buses at Christmas so my mother and father decided to visit my brother on Boxing Day, taking me with them. We travelled on three different buses before being dropped at the bottom of the drive to the hospital.

When we got to the ward, a small one with only three beds, we found my brother sitting in a chair, reading. He was soon opening the presents we had brought with us and we were all quietly enjoying the visit. Then a small elderly man came in and introduced himself to us as the surgeon who had conducted the operation. I was surprised to hear all the nurses call this strange little foreigner ‘professor’. After asking my bother how he felt, he sat on the bed and told my bother to lift the bed with him sitting on it which Wal did. The scar of the operation was tiny and never gave my bother any trouble. He was out and back at work in a few days and was called up in the summer of 1940.

I think we had seen one of the first examples of keyhole surgery.

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