The first day in the life of a Centenarian

14 Dec

As I am writing my 100th blog  on the  December 1st 2013 I am with  a lady celebrating her 100th birth.

image1913 was the year when stainless steel was invented, potato crisps arrived and on 2 April – Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was imagesentenced to three years of penal servitude.

Arsenal football team moved to Highbury.

imageKing George V reigned on the throne.

“When Irish eyes are smiling” and Danny Boy were the most favourite songs.

Miss. Williams was a deputy Headteacher at a girls’ Grammar school in Cardiff untill 1970 and although would have like to have studied Medicine she decided to study a shorter course as her father was unwell as she wanted to work as soon as possible. She was an intelligent, keen student and read Biology at Cardiff and subsequently followed a teachers training course.
She was a teacher at the same school and had to set up the Biology department from scratch finding the equipment and devising a curriculum. Despite her short stature she claims she never had discipline problems with her pupils. Her department became an important nurturing ground for future doctors and this was evident on her birthday when cards appeared from former pupils
She had been brought up in Tenby,Pembrokeshire and was a keen pupil from infancy.
She recalled how as a 5 year old her GP performed an adenoidectomy on the kitchen table. She described how when the doctor arrived she remembers coming downstairs in her pyjamas and dressing gown, climbing up onto the table as instructed. She remembers a mask was given to her with presumably an anaesthetic and then felt herself drift into a sleep as if floating on a sea of blue. As she came around she observed the doctor tidying his instruments and as she opened her eyes she said, “Sorry am I awake too soon?” She made a nun eventful recovery.

Several years later she clearly recalls how the family were in the garden watching Amelia Mary Earhart flying over on one of her solo flights. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and setting many aviation records and disappeared in July 1937 and never found.
Following this event her father developed a severe gastric haemorrhage and the doctor was called. He advised sucking ice on a daily basis for 2 weeks as a way of stopping the bleeding. Her father then went on to have major surgery but was confined to a ‘bath chair’ ( wheelchair) for several years as the incision was slow to heal. He eventually went back to light work but was advised to stay on a light diet of milk, butter, mashed potato and chicken with occasional pork loin and calves foot jelly and large quantities of antacids.
The family moved to Cardiff she claims ‘to have better medical treatment.’ On one occasion her father was taken to hospital with abdominal pain from the a hernia in the old surgical scar and the junior doctor suggested surgery, which she questioned (an unusual reaction in those days). As a young woman she insisted on seeing the consultant who discussed the problem and agreed with her and surgery Ewan’s not performed and her father recovered. She has never stopped questioning the medical profession since that occasion and when I arrived she had plenty of questions and views to air about the present NHS as she has done on every occasion I have seen her. Her father lived until he was 86 years and despite her mother having breast cancer treated with a radical mastectomy lived until she was 76yrs. She has had severe osteoporosis and broken many bones including her right wrist on several occasions. She was one of the first patients to have a Bisphosphonate infusion and other new drugs for osteoporosis and is well known to the Rheumatology department at University Hospital of Wales and always ready to try new treatment as long as it is all the evidence is explained in full detail. She has remained reasonably mobile and proudly claimed that more recently she has been climbing the stairs on occasions instead of using the stairlift!
When we arrived on the Eve of her birthday she had prepared Afternoon tea with ham sandwiches and lemon drizzle cake and was busy doing the Telegraph crossword. The sitting room of her flat was full of cards including a card from the Queen and the Welsh Secretary of State and flowers many from old pupils. She was animated and very excited about her impending party. After supper which she instructed me how to prepare and serve followed later that evening and then insisting on viewing the 10 o’clock news to catch up on the latest International events.
Next morning she was up early as carers called to wash and dress her and there was incessant chat about local gossip and discussions about what she was going to wear and was her new jacket going to coordinate with her dress and shoes. She then sat at her desk to read her emails and send replies appropriately. Fortunately the Warden of the sheltered housing has been able to give her lessons when she bought her laptop a few years ago.

It wasn’t long before the door bell rang and continued to ring at frequent intervals in between the phone ringing  with good wishes from people of all ages. As I was felt weary from the constant flow of well wishers she seemed to get more animated.

She gave me instructions of what to prepare for lunch and then after this received more visitors. Later the hairdresser arrived to style her hair and another carer called in to dress her for the party that she had insisted must be in the evening.
She was driven to a Country Club on the outskirts of Cardiff and joined by about 30 guests. Surveying the scene, she positively glowed throughout the meal, which she had carefully chosen and clearly enjoyed her choice with a glass of red wine. Finally, after a speech from her niece’s husband we raised our glasses of champagne to wish her ‘Happy Birthday’ and then she walked with her 3 wheeled walking aid (she affectionately calls ‘My Merc’) to cut the cake and then gave a short speech to thank those who came and as she said to recommend reaching 100 years of age as it is ‘rather fun’!


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