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Antibiotics at the start of the NHS saved my life

20 June 2018


Diane Clay was born in 1945 and at the age of three developed bronchial pneumonia and was treated in hospital using some of the first antibiotics to be used to treat civilians, at the very beginning of the NHS.

Diane recalls: “My condition deteriorated so much that I remember my GP kneeling by my cot to pray while he waited for the ambulance to come to take me to hospital. During the Second World War and in the immediate years following, antibiotics were generally used only for armed forces personnel.

“I quickly recovered and at the age of 24 decided to train for teaching. I worked at a village school for 17 years where I then became Head Teacher for a further 10 years, and found that my biology training enabled me to be a Science Advisor to other teachers.

I had to retire early from teaching because of Pernicious Anaemia and Hypothyroidism which I had struggled with for a while before it was diagnosed. However, I then became a Life Coach, using my experience as a Head Teacher to help families.

In 2005 I broke my pelvis in a fall and a very talented surgeon called Max Wilde from Bedford Hospital saved my life. I was bleeding to death and died twice but he managed to resuscitate me and guide my recovery until I was able to leave hospital, so I will always be grateful to him.

In 2010 I became a volunteer for Healthwatch and worked there for five years until my 70th birthday. I also wanted to help develop services for mental health sufferers - my medical conditions had also had an adverse effect on my mental health.  I founded the Bedford Mental Health Interest, Ideas and Action group, to signpost people to services, and designed a scheme called 'Extras', to give extra help to children who need it. Both my parents were alcoholic and I feel that would have benefitted from such a scheme.

I feel that giving help to families can help prevent poor mental health and give children the experience of a safe and caring environment, and be beneficial to society.

I am now 73 years old and enjoy my hobbies of garden design and tourism, but I would like to think that I have given back some of what has been given to me in my life with my voluntary work.

I feel I am very special to have had my life saved twice and for that I will always be very grateful to the NHS and its dedicated staff.”

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