Ben Parkinson column: Fresh air is the best medicine of all

Ben Parkinson in Stanmore Hospital
Ben Parkinson in Stanmore Hospital

I’ve just been referred to Stanmore Hospital for them to look at my back and pelvis.

It’s a very old hospital just outside London.

They treat mostly spinal injuries and lifelong conditions. Most lads who get spinal injuries in service are sent here.

It’s the most amazing place and I thought I’d tell you a little bit about it.

I went in February 2009 for the first operation on my back , two and a half years after I was injured.

Although there are a lot of old brick outbuildings the main part of the hospital is actually a series of wooden huts.

All the wards, even intensive care are like this.

Every patient has an individual room and it’s more like a conservatory with double doors opening onto a little terrace.

The windows are kept open all the time and it doesn’t smell anything like a hospital.

But the most amazing thing about it is that it’s built into the side of an incredibly steep hill.

The ward block is actually called The Slope.

The operating theatre is right at the bottom of the hill but the corridor that links it to all the wards is so steep that they have to have little engines that attach to the beds to pull them up and down.

Sometimes they join several beds together and you get a patient train going up and down.

Going down in a wheelchair is great fun if dangerous to pedestrians , but getting back up is a nightmare.

It was built during the Second World War, and it was only 20 years ago that the corridor was finally covered in.

Before that it was completely open air, and if the weather was bad when a patient was going to theatre or x-ray, a nurse had to run alongside carrying an umbrella to keep him dry!

What this all means is that air blows through all the wards at all times.

Although intensive care is one big ward, every bed has double doors next to it which are kept open.

That meant all my mates could appear at any time.

It also means that although it looks old and tired, it has an infection rate of nil for MRSA and the other super bugs.

Obviously it’s true that fresh air is the best medicine then.

n Paratrooper Ben Parkinson suffered major injuries including the loss of both legs and brain damage after being blown up by a bomb while serving in Afghanistan.

He has been described as the most seriously wounded British solder to have survived his injuries.

He has since been awarded the MBE for his services to charity since he returned to Doncaster and is still having ongoing treatment for his injuries.