It’s been another busy week with more research done and we have already started contacting experts to help with the next step in the campaign. There is still a lot of work to do but it is getting exciting.
With everything in the news and talk of vaccinations I was thinking about a story Christine used to tell people, about the time I was desperately sick in 1975 after I was given the smallpox vaccination.
The smallpox vaccine was one of the first to be developed, using science that goes all the way back to 1796, it is a ‘live vaccine’ and that means you are given mild similar pox called vaccinia virus and as your body learns to fights off this vaccinia virus it also builds immunity to smallpox because the two viruses are so similar. In fact this vaccine worked so well that smallpox has been eradicated all around the world, saving millions of lives.
After I was given the smallpox vaccination I was very unlucky and got very sick, developing full blown vaccinia virus with a rash all over my body and a high fever. Christine took me to her doctor who gave her some very stark news. Doctor Green was a heavy set man with lots of curly black hair that he wore like a big wig. He sat behind a large mahogany antique desk, one of those with a green leather top and he told Christine that I was very ill, indeed I may not live through the night! Her son’s situation was quite desperate and there was nothing anyone could do, Christine needed to keep a close eye on me until the fever had broken, and then he sent us home.
I remember my mother sitting at the end of my bed that night, opening and closing windows to ventilate my room, keeping me cool but not too cold. Christine would tell people about that desperate night and how afraid she was for her son’s life that night. How she watched over me and that correctly ventilating the room probably saved my life.
When I was older I asked her why wasn’t I sent to hospital, if I was that sick why were we sent home?
“I’m not sure he was a very good doctor” Christine replied.
A year or two after the ventilated room we went to see Doctor Green again, his curly black hair now with a few waves of grey. I can’t remember exactly why we were there but at the end of the visit Christine mentioned how hard it was to get me to go to bed at night.
“I can give you something for that,” he said as he scribbled out a prescription. “Give him just half a tablet a night”
Christine bought the tablets and that night I had half of one and fell asleep for about 14 hours. Understandably Christine was very worried and asked Professor Dennis Evens what he thought, he was a chemistry professor who was a great friend of hers. “Oh no Chris, that’s Valium. That doesn’t sound right, and that is a very big dose of Valium. I don’t think you are meant to give that to children”.
We stopped seeing Doctor Green and, as for the Valium, “I’ll have those to help me relax,” Christine said.
Many years later Christine had brought a flat in Bruce Grove, in north London, I had moved in to help her fix it up so it would have been around the year 2000. Christine would have been in her late fifties. The flat needed a lot of work and we were stripping walls, painting and even dealing with damp around one of the windows with Christine holding my belt as I leaned out of a second floor window with a silicon gun. One morning I was late for work, I can’t remember why, and Chris said, ”Jump in the car, I’ll drop you off.” We were in a hurry and when we got to the top of the stairs on the landing, she slipped. Christine was a few steps behind me so I was able to stop her from falling too far but she had already bounced down a few steps. She stood up said she was fine and we carried on jumping in the car and she dropped me at work. It was a few hours later I got the call from the hospital: my mother wasn’t very well.
When I arrived, Christine was still in accident and emergency. She was sitting up in a bed with pads on her chest and wires everywhere, checking her heart and with a mask on for oxygen.
Christine told me when she got home she couldn’t breathe, and that she had really hurt herself coming down the stairs, it had knocked all of the air out of her, but didn’t want to say. The hospital had done tests and they had found scarring on her lungs. “Emphysema or something,” she said.
It was the first time she seemed fragile to me, and this time I had to make sure she took her tablets and rested in bed. Christine didn’t like being looked after or being told what to do, so it was not long before she was up and about. Looking back I think something was different and her breathing was never the same.
Twenty years later I wonder what Christine would say about the website and all the work people are doing to clear her name, all the people trying to look after her now.