Bethli and Teddy, Ward 2, Taranaki Base Hospital, November 1975.

Well, what did I have?  I was certainly very jaundiced, and had ascites.  I couldn't see my toes, because of all the fluid I was carrying!  Surely it must have been Hepatitis, Leukaemia... the tests went on....and on....and on.... until the Doctors didn't know what they could test next.  I was lucky that the hospital had a Mother's room, so that my Mother and baby sister were often able to come and stay in the hospital.  My Grandparents also drove all the way down from Auckland to visit, as it was quite lonely and scary being away from home and school. 

The nurses and doctors were lovely, but I started developing an antipathy to needles at this stage.  One morning I was promised that there would be no need to take blood that morning, so I wheelchaired myself down to visit the lady in the hospital shop, only to have the Ward page me, as they did need my blood after all.  The bone marrow puncture was a memory that will live long, as there was no local anaesthetic or any pain relief and the agony was so intense they had to postpone it until my later operation.  On the whole though I was told that I was a happy and cheerful patient, and I certainly had many cards and visitors. 

I was rapidly dying so emergency measures were called for.  My lovely Pediatrician, Dr. Leo Buchanen, did an exploratory laparotomy, and surprise, discovered a totally cirrhosed liver.  He had earlier tested for Wilson's Disease with the serum copper and serum zinc tests of the blood and urine, and was waiting for the results to be sent down from Auckland Hospital.  He had come across Wilson's Disease before, when he had worked in the United Kingdom, and included these tests as part of the total package of tests he was doing.  The results for these tests came back at about the same time as he did the laparotomy, and they were positive for Wilson's Disease.  He then immediately arranged for a slit-lamp examination of my eyes, and saw most impressive Kayser-Fleischer rings.  This was 1974.  Liver Transplants were not available, and the drug of choice was Penicillamine. 

One of the most exciting memories is of finally being able to see my toes, once they had got rid of my ascites.  I remember ringing my Mother in great glee from the hall telephone, saying this.  I was only about 3 stone now, the same weight as my sister who was five years younger, and 10 inches shorter.

Bethli and Teddy, Ward 2, Taranaki Base Hospital, November 1974.