What were you doing in January 1965?

4 July 2016

Marg Porter Marg Porter

Margret Porter started 50 years dedicated to nursing in Gisborne in January 1965 by reporting for training at the old Cook Hospital on Hospital Hill.

Marg retired from Planet Sunshine (ward 4) at Gisborne Hospital recently and looked back over many happy memories.

Seventeen other nurses who also started their nursing training at Cook Hospital joined Hauora Tairāwhiti staff to wish Marg all the best for her retirement.

Cook Hospital Nurses

Left at back Nell Schreurs, Jill Saxby, Annie Foley, Sue Horsfall, Irene Williams, Di Hunter. Middle: Meg Stewart, Isa Koia, Judy Watts, Glenis Jenkins, Gaye Hollamby, Jill Lewis, Kath Crawshaw, Cally Gordon, Sandy Coyle Front: Niki Joyce, Margret Porter, Marion Gibson

Marg was 17 when she arrived at the nurses’ home where she lived for the next three years.

“For the first six months we had to be in by 7pm at night and if we wanted to go to the movies and be out till 11pm we had to get special permission from the Sister. As you could imagine there were times when we did sneak out and had to hide in the bushes. We worked hard, got one day off a week but had lots of fun.”

In her years Marg has seen many changes; some for the better, some for the worse.

“Things are much more casual now. In the early days no one used Christian names. It was Nurse Porter, Sister Prentice (now Charge Nurse or Clinical Nurse Manager) or Dr .

As a nurse we rarely spoke to the doctors. You relayed messages to the doctor through the Sister.”

“The exception was Christmas which was always a jolly affair. The surgeons would always come in for Christmas lunch. A turkey would be wheeled up to the ward and the surgeons would be in charge of carving. Doctors would dress up as fairies or angels and we would push them around in the reindeer sleigh.”

“Each ward had a changing room but no nurse’s office. Even for our 10 minute breaks we had to change out of our short sleeved uniform into a long sleeved uniform to leave the ward and go to the cafeteria. Sometimes we just put our cape on over the top to hide the arms but this was frowned upon.”

Some things were a lot more difficult like making beds. “The patients stayed in the bed and you had to roll them over. Corners had to be perfectly mitred and the Cook Hospital Crest on the bedspread had to placed just so. Thank goodness for fitted sheets.”

Some things were a lot easier “It took 15 seconds to take a pulse with fingers on the patient’s wrist, count for 15 seconds and then multiply beats by four. Now you have to go and find the pulse-taking machine, unplug it, wheel it to the patient, hope the child doesn’t get frightened and need calming as the large machine approaches and then clip the monitor onto their finger.”

Relationships with patients are something Marg will remember.

“Patients used to be in hospital for a lot longer and so you got to know them quite well. Someone with a leg ulcer could be in hospital for three months. All operations were open surgery and most patients would be in for at least ten days.”

“Cataract operations would be a week stay. We would do four women one week and four men the next. Patients would come in on a Sunday. We would cut their eyelashes with scissors that had vaseline on. They would go home on the following Friday.

In the 80’s Ward Eight, where I worked for 10 years, had 32 beds. It would be closed every weekend. The patients we had got to know well during the week would be moved to other wards over the weekend. The patients never liked that. They would be waiting at the doors to our ward at 8am on Monday morning waiting to come back in.

Marg has worked on Planet Sunshine for the last seventeen years and has enjoyed working with children and seeing them get well.

A highlight of her retirement was a letter from an 11 year girl with a disease that has bought her to Planet Sunshine regularly for the last 5 years. “In the letter she said she was going to miss me because I was her favourite nurse. That was very touching. She also remembered that I always say I want my coffee ‘Sweet, dark and hot just like my men causing her to say ‘Gee you not a fuddy dud!”

She will miss the fun and companionship of her colleagues. I will not miss the night shifts. As I have got older dealing with the tiredness of doing an 11pm to 7am shift has been a real challenge.

Marg has a trip to Australia planned. Health in Tairāwhiti will continue to benefit from Marg’s experience as a Friends of ED volunteer and doing more work for the Cancer Society.

Marg Porter Marg Porter