New people moved in next door but one, it turned out that Terry the Dad worked with Mike at Texaco he was also a tanker driver. When they got settled in they came to our house for a cup of tea and his wife Maureen and I got on really well. They had three children the eldest a girl Sharon was 13yrs old and then Teresa who was about 6yrs old and a little boy the twins age but he was a little terror. They had moved here from London and were real Eastenders but really nice.
Me my mum and Dennis
We went to my Mums and Dennis had conveniently gone out but at least we could tell my Mum and Dad what the Doctor had said that he must go and see his GP for some help. The soft drugs he was taking were very dangerous, also the contra indications of taking several different types at once could lead to death. He had given us some leaflets to give to Dennis but I had a feeling he wouldn’t even look at them.
He had at least got another job so he perhaps wouldn’t have to steal to buy the drugs. For a while after my Mum and Dad had told him to stop taking the drugs or they would tell him to leave and fend for his self. I couldn’t see them doing this but he did appear to change so maybe.
Things were going good at our house, the kids were really happy and Mike and I were getting along much better. It seemed that this move was the right one for us all. Sheila seemed as fit as a fiddle, no more problems in fact she seemed much better for just coming off the medication. She would hopefully have her last check up when she was 4yrs old and that would be that.
Mike had at last finished all the decorating it did look nice and now he had decided he was going to tidy up the garden. At the moment it was just lawn which was perfect for the kids as they had loads of garden toys slides etc… Mike said he would like to plant some rose bushes to brighten it up a bit, add a bit of colour. So off we all went to the local garden centre he bought loads it would really look nice.
He had been working so hard all day and I took him a cup of tea and thought I was being helpful by saying I thought a couple of the bushes would perhaps look better in a different place. My god did I say the wrong thing or what, he proceeded to uproot them all and said if I could do better then I was welcome. I told him not to be so stupid, wrong thing again. Then I made a swift exit with the kids and left him to it. I looked out of the kitchen window and just couldn’t stop laughing there he was going about a hundred miles an hour pulling them up. He had just spent about 3 hours planting them.
It really was like a Norman Wisdom film because no sooner had he uprooted them all than I think he realised what a dumb thing he had done and started all over again re planting them. I might add this time he did put a couple where I had suggested. When he had finished he came indoors and from that day to this he never referred to the incident. It was so pathetic.
We had a lovely summer the weather was lovely the kids really enjoyed the freedom of the garden. Maureens children came round to play and Kim from across the road. They would play for ages until David , Maureens son would upset someone he really was a little devil. He would get sent home then he would taunt the other kids from his window as they didn’t have a garden.
Mike came home and said someone at work had a car for sale, I believe it was a Ford Anglia and he really liked it. He said he was going to get a loan to buy it. I asked him to think about it first as we were just getting on our feet and it was nice to have a little extra but no he wouldn’t listen selfish or what. Nothing else mattered as long as he got what he wanted.
Sure enough about a week later he pulled up in the car it looked alright but I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t just buying it but also tax and insurance. Of course we had to drop everything and go for a ride the kids were excited so I didn’t say anything. It did seem a nice little car and I knew for the first week or so he would take us out in it but then the newness would wear off and it would be too much trouble. Been there, done that knew the procedure.
It was Mikes responsibility to pay for the car and I kept asking if he had paid it and he said he had. A few weeks went by and a letter arrived addressed to Mr and Mrs Prior so I opened it and it was a court summons for non payment of the loan for the car. I was so angry I had specifically asked him if it was being paid and he said yes. When he came home I showed it to him and he said he thought he had paid it but the letter said he had only paid 1 month. I just knew this might happen. We were really broke anyway, this house was costing a fortune to run and Mike wouldn’t do any overtime. The children were also costing a fortune with clothes and shoes etc… Mike said I would have to stop spending especially as he would probably have to pay a fine and also pay the balance which we hadn’t got.
We were really getting in a mess I had just found out the rent hadn’t been paid for weeks that should have come out of the his bank account on a standing order. In those days it was usually the husband who had the bank account and paid the bills.There were threatening letters coming from everywhere. Mike came up with this crazy idea of leaving Texaco and claiming his pension money he had paid in he said it was about £300 and that would put us straight . I tried to point out that giving up this well paid job would not help in the long run as he would then be out of work. I said if he wouldn’t spend so much on rubbish ie hobbies and we asked for time to pay I was sure they would accept this but no he wouldn’t hear of it. He said he would beg to no-one.
So guess what he gave in his notice and was then told it could take up to 3 months for the money to come through. We were now in a terrible mess in fact I had no clue as to what we were going to do. He knew he had messed up but reacted by shouting at everybody and generally making our lives a misery.
It was March 1969 and it was the day Sheila had to go hopefully for her last check up at West Herts Hospital, I was hoping Dr Jolly would be there it would have been nice for him to do the final checks as it was him who saved her life.
I had to take all the children as the appointment was 2pm but couldn’t take the risk of not being home for Lesley. Off we went armed with urine samples one from evening one from first thing. We went straight in and it wasn’t Dr Jolly but nevertheless he was a nice Doctor and said did we realise just how lucky we were that Sheila was here today. I said I was fully aware and hoped this would be the last hospital appointment .
He was really thorough and checked the urine samples and with a big smile on his face he said I am afraid……my heart stood still……I wont be seeing Sheila anymore. I felt like kissing him it was such a relief.
Home we went it was such a lovely warm day we decided to walk home through Gadebridge Park so the kids could play around. When we got home the kids wanted to go and collect snails I don’t know why but they did. They would put them in a jar and then see who got the most then put them back. This took place in the woods at the side of the road on Galley Hill a couple of minutes from our house.
They played for a couple of ours and then came home starving. First thing I said was wash there hands the thought of those snails made me feel ill. Tea was all ready so they sat at the table and cleared there plates. Lesley went out again to play with Kim and Sheila and Steve were kneeling on chairs at the table, colouring.
While they were quiet I watched the TV for a while. Suddenly Sheila started crying saying she couldn’t get off the chair her legs hurt and she didn’t feel well. I said she had probably got cramp with kneeling for so long. I lifted her off the chair but she couldn’t put any weight on her legs I was convinced it was cramp. I sat her in the armchair and realised she felt very hot and sticky, she didn’t look at all well. Then she said her neck hurt and her legs were still very stiff. Then she was sick. We only lived across the road from the Doctors surgery so I decided to wrap her up and run across. The only thing I could think of was polio with the stiff legs and neck.
We saw a Doctor I hadn’t seen before he was from their other surgery in Boxmoor. When I told him Sheila’s symptoms he grinned and said another over imaginative mother, I said no way I explained that we had been at West Herts Hospital all afternoon and that she was given a clean bill of health after being under the hospital since birth. He then said it was understandable that I would panic. I didn’t say any more it was pointless. He had made his mind up about me.
He then shocked me by saying she had tonsillitis. I asked him since when did you have stiff joints and neck with tonsillitis. He said she just probably ached a bit. He gave me a prescription for penicillin and I took Sheila home feeling fobbed off. I went straight to the chemist left Lesley to watch the twins. The chemist was also just across the road. The chemist suggested that I gave Sheila a double dose of the antibiotic to get it working to ease her symptoms.
I gave her the double dose and just gave her a little wash down to try and cool her and then put her to bed. I went up about 20mins later and she was fast asleep so I was hoping by morning she would be much better. I had decided that if she woke up in the night I would give her more antibiotic I was scared this bug or whatever might upset her kidneys again.
An hour later Stephen went to bed and Sheila looked quite peacefull and fast asleep. Next to go to bed was Lesley . Just as she was getting out of the bath Mike came home from work and I told him about Sheila and he said the Doctor knows what he is about. I said I didn’t trust him as I felt there was something more serious wrong with her. Then came the sarcasm, did I think I knew better than the Doctor, I said yes in this case I think I did , he laughed. I hoped the Doctor was right.
I again checked on Sheila several times before going to bed myself she seemed ok not as hot as she had been , so perhaps the antibiotics were starting to work. The next morning around 8am Stephen called me and said he couldn’t wake Sheila up, I flew out of bed and Sheila was on all fours in bed and as I picked her up she stayed in that same position as if her legs were locked in that position. I called Mike but he totally ignored me and I didn’t have time to waste on him.
Just as I got downstairs there was a knock at the door and it was Linda an old friend of Dennis’s. I laid Sheila on the sofa and could see she was unconscious and had purple spots on her shoulder and chest. I asked Linda to watch the kids and dashed downstairs to the lady who lived underneath Carol, she had a telephone and I called the Doctors it was a Doctor who answered and I explained the situation and as soon as I mentioned the purple spots he said he would be straight over after calling an ambulance. I was in shock I just had known there was something seriously wrong with her.
I went back upstairs and told Linda ,I said I had better try and get Mike up as we would be going to the hospital. He would not get up even after I had told him what the doctor had said. I went back downstairs to hell with him Sheila needed me. Linda tried to shout him but he wasn’t getting up for anybody. The Doctor arrived and said he had called an ambulance as he was pretty certain Sheila had meningitis. I didn’t really know what it was but knew it was death threatening. I told the doctor about the other Doctor saying tonsillitis and he said I had probably saved her life by giving her the penicillin double dose and through the night. I could hear Linda screaming at Mike that his daughter was dying didn’t he care. The ambulance arrived and we were told there were no facilities that Sheila needed at Hemel we would have to go to Shrodells at Watford. Mike heard the siren and was downstairs in no time.
The Doctor just said late night last night, to Mike. The ambulance men came in and were so gentle with her even though she was unconscious, I left Linda looking after Lesley and Stephen and asked her to try and ease there minds as they were terrified.
Mike and I were in the back of the ambulance with Sheila and an ambulanceman. He kept leaning over her listening for her breath. Suddenly he called the driver to stop as she wasn’t breathing and he started working on her and soon he said he had got her back. I was so terrified, I am not at all religious but I prayed for her to live. I knew she was a fighter but just how long can you go on fighting for