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Jack Reilly

Jack Reilly was Deputy Superintendent Physiotherapist from 1966 until 1990.

I had a great admiration for the whole set-up, because it had everything under one roof. It had physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, which was an extremely important instrument at that time because there were quite a lot of polio people, people who’d suffered from polio at that time because the Salk vaccine wasn’t used until certainly the late fifties, so a lot of people with residual degrees of paralysis, could help. But apart from that, in the six or seven years I’d worked in Coventry, I knew from patients that I had treated that anybody that had been to the Pump Rooms was full of praise for the treatment they had.

And whereabouts in the building were the treatments carried out?

Well in the front of the building there was the ballroom and the annexe, which was a waiting room. Then the next level, parallel to the main road, parallel to the parade, was the physiotherapy department and the gym and immediately behind that, again parallel to the road, were the Turkish baths and then beyond that was the pool, the hydrotherapy pool. It was next door to what was then the swimming pool. But when these pools were built around the turn of the century, there either wasn’t mixed bathing at all or if there was, it would be a certain time of the day for families. Otherwise there were certain hours for men, certain hours for women. And that applied to most towns. But in an opulent town like Leamington they could afford to build two pools. So there was a big one for men and there was a smaller one for women and children. In fact it was the ladies’ pool that became the hydrotherapy pool. About half of it was, more than half was filled in and cubicles arranged there with a bed and a chair for the patient before going to the pool and after the pool. So we’d this enormous advantage; it was a big pool, it was deep and instead of hoisting people rather alarmingly in a lift up over the side and dropping them in the water, we had a ramp down into the water where they could be wheeled, people who were non-weight bearing could be wheeled right into the water.

Were there other types of baths in the building?

Yes. When I went there, there was still a procedure called Vichy massage and Vortex baths. The Vichy massage was massage on a stone slab rather like a mortuary room [laughs] and jets of water sprayed on the person and massage was given. Very good for painful muscular conditions and things. There were other douches and things but they’d gone by my time. There was something called a Scotch douche, which was so many seconds freezing cold water and so many seconds hot water, alternately. But it had to be at a pressure of something like forty pounds per square inch, so the hose actually indented your skin, so again it was a form of massage. But that went out quite quickly. The Vichy massage went out fairly quickly for being not cost effective, because it involved one person doing the massage and at least one other person standing by to bring towels and – at least one or two. So we’re talking about two or three people per patient so it just wasn’t viable. The Vortex baths on the other hand were. These were big tubs that an individual sat in or stood in and the main advantage was stimulating circulation, so that a lot of people with poor circulation in the legs for example; MS, strokes, things like that, they could pop in one of these baths prior to going in the pool and the warm water and the massage from the jets of water relaxed their muscles, stimulated the circulation so that they were in a better condition to do the exercises in the pool.

What were the most common conditions that you treated?

Well from the physiotherapy point of view, it would be back problems, sports injuries and early arthritises. From the point of view there was a pool, the advantage of working without weight bearing and partial weight bearing is that really any condition that creates loss or limitation of functional movement in the body as a whole or in an individual limb can be improved by exercise. But out of the water exercise can sometimes be too painful for some conditions, or maybe the person hasn’t got the muscular strength to do the exercises, whereas water can be used to aid, buoyancy rather can be used to aid the movement, assist the movement or resist the movement. So you can progress from somebody who can’t move at all through to somebody who’s a little strength, to somebody who has a lot of strength. So those conditions would be the arthritises and the neurological diseases, including strokes.

Did patients tend to arrive knowing much about the treatments on offer?

No, I don’t think they did really. It surprised me quite a lot with… I remember on several occasions an elderly person coming in to the pool for rehabilitation after say an operation on their hip. Now there might have been slight differences in the degree of treatment; if this was a complete hip replacement, a total hip replacement or a partial one or an osteotomy, and I would be able to tell which it was by looking at the scar. But if it was a first visit when you examined the patient or talked to them, they’re probably in quite a lot of pain, you don’t want to move them about any more than is necessary and I would ask, would say, what exactly have they done with your hip? And so often the answer would be, oh I don’t know. [laughs] You know, and I’d say, you let somebody loose with a knife on you and you don’t know what they’re doing. And they might say, oh well they’re so busy you don’t like to bother them.

How many people were there working in the medical department?

There were about eight or ten physios taking up six fulltime posts. So there were only about four of us fulltime and the other posts, or the two or three posts were made up of part-timers. Then we had ten hydrotherapy assistants – there were eight women and two men I think, or was it ten women and two men? And at one time we had three men, but mostly it was two. We had our own laundry, so there were two laundresses, because of the enormous turnover of towels and sheets for the pool department. And two cleaners and a secretary. Latterly we had one and a half secretaries as the work piled up.