Jim’s diary – Part 1

Here is the first diary entry from Jim Nicholls, talking about his experiences of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1928. This extract is taken word for word from Jim’s diary that he meticulously kept at the time, describing all the details about what he was going through. You can read about Jim’s story on our website.

Brighton Hospital

Tuesday April 10th 1928

Mum and I walked up main steps and handed in cards and a letter to the porter. We then sat on a form in a corridor with our backs against a hot radiator and facing a lift. Soon the messenger boy came and took us (and our bag) to the Jeffries Ward. Mum stayed outside and I went on, and had to wait in an armchair in the ward with a big-faced, stolid man also in an armchair on the other side of the fireplace.

I thought at first he was the doctor, but the sister came in soon afterwards and apparently asked him what was wrong with him, for he touched his leg tenderly as though to point out his malady.

While waiting, another nurse came round to the beds with rations of bread and water – at least, it looked like that – on a trolley (or are they called dumbwaiters?). The sister then asked me who was my doctor, and as I did not quite ‘get’ her, I said “Dr Hunt”, but she wanted Dr Williams.

Next I had to undress inside a canopy of screens and pack all clothes etc to be taken back. Mum came in when I was in bed and left me cigarettes, matches, holder, purse and watch, which I had packed to go home. Dinner was brought to me by nurse, consisting of meat, greens, few potatoes and gravy, – no second course, or drink. Mum went to sister and soon after, left.

One chap in this department came and asked what was wrong with me and it appears he was the same. He talked rather cheerily about people losing fingers and legs and sight and was altogether very frightening. He’s an old hand though and gave me hints. Later a nurse took my temperature and pulse. After, I read some of ‘Angel Esquire’ [by crime writer Edgar Wallace] and then wrote this.

At this moment (3.45pm) my tea arrived. Our pessimistic fellah had warned me I should get no tea (he said he was starved for 4 days), so that although everyone else was getting theirs, I was not expecting anything. But lo and behold, likewise hallelujah! One egg, two slices bread (white) and butter, one small tomato and a pinch of salt, also a cup of tea (I should say it was sweetened with saccharine), which with blessing was swiftly scoffed.

It has been raining outside since about 12pm and someone has a gramophone going now. At 4.45pm a doctor came – I presume Dr Hunt – who seems a decent sort. He has a large forehead, with crisp, curly hair and white even teeth. He felt my pulse and smelt my breath, and asked my profession. He said school teaching wasn’t one requiring much physical exertion. He also told the sister to put me on an ordinary diet till 10am tomorrow, also that he would make a blood test; and keep me on a plain water diet!

Have had one De Reszke Turks cigarette at about 4pm (smoking hours 4-7pm). Soon after this, I was moved into main ward, with my back to North wall. Had bath and supper of cup of Bovril. Bought Evening News. Lights out at 8pm.

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  1. ruth gartland says

    This is great, you can feel the atmosphere in the room, the way he descibes everyone and what is going on is fab – I want to read more – is the full diary available

  2. Louise says

    This is really interestin I agree with Ruth I would love to read more :-)

  3. Angie robinson says

    I also love this – you are there with him – more please!!

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