Susan Hutchinson joined the Pump Rooms as a Hydrotherapy Assistant in the early 1980s.
What sort of treatments did you administer?
Well we used to do the hot packs. You had sessions. In the morning you might be in the pool doing pool work and in the afternoon you’d be on top doing the hot packs, helping patients dress and undress and getting the hot towels for them to come out of the water and that sort of thing. We did waxing of hands, mainly hands, it could be done on the feet but it was mainly hands, for arthritis. The exercises in the pool, there were exercises that we did on the stretchers that you saw on the film, were excellent for – the patient is always supported, either by us and certainly by the water when they’re in the pool and the amount of flexibility they can get without fighting gravity as well, it makes them able to exercise in a way that they would never have been able to before. And there were certain specific movements that you would use for say, a back problem, knee problems, following surgery, before surgery, adjusting it to suit whoever you were working with because some people were less able to cope with the more strenuous exercises than others. And that was something you were taught and something that you learned as well, you know, you got a feeling for what was right for somebody.
What did the hot packs involve?
Well, it’s quite funny thinking back now, it’s really strange. But they were different shapes and sizes depending on what you were going to use them for and it was like a very heavy duty linen material that was full of fuller’s earth which had got good heat retention properties. And they were in boilers and we used to have to use the old – they’re like tweezers that you know, your gran used to use to get her washing out of the boiler.
That’s it, that sort of, wooden tongs. And pull them out and drain them off and then wrap them in towels and then go and put them on the patient wherever they were necessary – back, knee, shoulder, neck, whatever, and leave them there – check on them obviously, just to make sure they’re comfortable – and leave them until time came to take them off and it was their turn to go in the water.
[The work] was physically draining I think because you were in the hot water, and sometimes I found it quite emotionally draining as well, but that’s my problem. There were some cases there that you couldn’t help bring home with you. You’re not supposed to, but you can’t just switch it on and off like that and I found that quite hard. Got a little bit more used to it but never really used to it. The physical effort of taking the less able people down the ramp on the stretchers that we used to use, I found that very, very hard...Physically the hardest part for me was having the less able patients and having to take them down the steep ramp that had got a right angle turn in it as well, which is where the difficulty came in, taking them down the ramp and into the water. Once their body actually was in the water, then you hadn’t got the same weight to manage, but taking them down and even more, pulling them out, was a real physical stress