ADJUSTING to life in the coronavirus pandemic has prompted this memory from regular contributor Vincent Finn, who was quarantined at Leeds Road Hospital as a child:

In 1947-48 I developed what looked like classic symptoms of mumps. I had swelling in my throat and a sore throat and fever. The NHS was just about to be introduced but had not fully launched so a doctor’s visit had to be paid for.

My mother, like all mothers at the time, began to treat me. Kept the room dark, gave me lots of fluids and cold cloths for the fever. I was sick for about a week and it showed no sign going away, so she sent for the doctor. His name was Dr Greaves, he examined me, said he thought it was mumps, and told my mother to continue doing what she’d been doing. I quickly got worse; the lumps in my throat had grown and I became very ill. Dr Greaves returned, accompanied by Dr Hennessey who had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He immediately said the feared word ‘diphtheria’. At this time there was no injection against diphtheria and the survival rate was about one in 10. Dr Hennessey said he was going to send for the ‘Fever Ambulance’. I remember it was blue, used for contagious outbreaks, and the patient was wrapped in red blankets. I could hear my mother crying.

In the time it took for the doctor to go to the telephone (no house in our area had a phone), my mother sent for my grandmother and they sent a message for my father to come home from work. There had been an outbreak of diphtheria among troops in North Africa during the war and I think Dr Hennessey had served there, which may have helped him to spot my condition. Probably the most alarming thing for me was that within half an hour of the doctor ordering the fever ambulance a priest from St Mary’s Church arrived. My mother laid out a small table beside the bed and he set up items to administer the Last Rites. I knew the significance of what was happening. My mother and grandmother were at the foot of the bed crying.

The ambulance took me to Leeds Road Fever Hospital, I was placed in a room on my own and kept there for 16 weeks - almost the entire winter. A nurse gave me an injection of penicillin every day. My room was on the ground floor, my mother and sometimes my father, brothers and sister visited. On visiting days the nurse turned my bed so I could see out of the window, there were wooden steps outside and they’d climb up them, look through the window, and we’d enjoy a visit through the window.

When I was getting ready to leave hospital I had a collection of comic books and a couple of other things I hoped I could take home, but they were taken away and burned. After I was discharged I had to go to the Children’s Hospital periodically to be checked over, but by the time the summer came I was pretty much back to normal. I’d missed almost a whole year of school so my mother had to go to St Mary’s School to see what class I’d join when the summer break was over. That quarantine is as clear as if it happened yesterday.

The building where I was kept still stands in the hospital grounds, part of which is now Marie Curie Hospice. I had occasion to go there again when my sister Mary was a patient there in 2011.