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It's Not The First Time Hope Has Faced a National Crisis...

It’s not the first time Liverpool Hope University has had to rise to the challenge of an unprecedented period of national uncertainty.   

While we currently grapple with a viral pandemic, rewind the clock 76 years and the UK was in the midst of World War II. 

The famous Senate Room at Hope's Childwall campus - then known as Saint Katherine’s College - had been turned into a makeshift hospital to treat injured servicemen. 

It’s here that wide-eyed eight-year-old Alan Melville found himself lying in a bed, sheets, pulled up to his eyes, and surrounded by wounded members of the Army, RAF and Navy. 

And Alan, now 83, has been reminiscing about his time at Hope as he finishes an upcoming book about his life story, The Last Injection

Alan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a youngster in 1944.  

With Liverpool’s hospitals overwhelmed, he found himself as the only child on this ward full of injured troops. He was there for two weeks, being injected with insulin and learning techniques to help manage his condition. 

But Alan, originally from Larkhill, West Derby, Liverpool, now living in coastal Walditch, Dorset, says he wasn’t unduly fazed. 

His father Walter - a famous Liverpool singer, as well as theatre stagehand and blacksmith - had been badly injured in World War I, suffering bayonet stab wounds to the chest and legs and also losing two fingers. 

Alan reveals: “Strangely enough, I didn’t have any fear going on to that ward. I can’t remember crying even though I was left on my own. 

“The men who were in there were really kind to me. I remember chatting to a chap who couldn’t get out of bed. I’d go over and stand next to him for a natter. 

“And I think because of what had happened to my dad, and because my dad’s uniform and rifle were still at home because he was in the Home Guard, it all felt quite familiar.”

One of the things that really sticks in Alan’s mind is the kindness of one of the young nurses - sister Muriel Lee. 

He adds: “She was only 22, but she was absolutely brilliant. She looked after me so well. 

“I remember her teaching my mum how to inject me with insulin. 

“And she taught us so well I was injecting myself aged eight and a half. I believe those formative weeks have been crucial in me being able to manage my diabetes for so long.”

Alan even managed to trace Sister Lee to a care home in Wirral, where he visited her ‘a great number of times.’

And Alan’s relationship with Hope doesn’t end there. 

He recently returned to the Senate Room - taking a seat in the precise location where his old hospital bed used to be. 

The experience was deeply moving. He adds: “Walking back into that room again for the first time in 70 years was overwhelming. 

“In my mind’s eye, I could still see all the beds lined up and the room itself looked so familiar. 

“I looked out of the window and could see the clocktower.. and memories came flooding back as the bells rang out.”

Father of two and grandfather of two Alan, married to wife Pam, went on to study for a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) and Master of Education (M.Ed) and taught at several colleges. 

But to get to that point he spent a further two years in hospital between the ages of 14 and 16, having contracted tuberculosis. 

Yet Alan, whose mum Jessie worked as a dinner lady at Roscoe Ballantyne Primary School, has thrived. 

Five years ago he received a coveted Gold Medal award from leading national charity Diabetes UK for having managed the condition for 70 years. 

He adds: “Very few people get the 60 medal, even fewer get the 70 medal. 

“If you’re treated and well balanced in the first five years post diagnosis as a diabetic, that acts as a legacy for your future health. And I think that’s what happened with me. 

“I was looked after so well at Hope and I was then looked after brilliantly by my mum. It all worked out in the end.”

 


Published on 25/03/2020