Hip op birthday for 99-year-old

Nervous patient sings Barnstaple hospital praises after unexpected birthday operation.

A SOUTH Molton woman who had not set foot in a hospital for 70 years was full of praise for staff at Barnstaple hospital after celebrating her 99th birthday there.

Yesterday (Tuesday) friends and family joined Doris Bale for an impromptu party on Capener ward, where she is recovering from a fall and hip replacement.

On hearing it was her birthday, ward staff set about arranging for balloons and decorations for a party.

A farmer’s wife at Sandyway on Exmoor for most of her life, Mrs Bale had last visited a hospital when she gave birth to her son Fred almost seven decades ago. Her husband Benjamin died in 1969 and she moved to South Molton 30 years ago.


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With help from Fred and partner Helen Aldritch she continues to live in her own home, but on Thursday broke her pelvis in a fall.

Understandably nervous after a lifetime away from hospital wards, Mrs Bale was eventually convinced she should stay at North Devon District Hospital and get her hip fixed, even though it meant spending her birthday in hospital.

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Originally scheduled for a simple repair, it was decided instead to offer Mrs Bale a completely unexpected hip replacement and it is thought she is the second oldest person ever to undergo the operation at the hospital.

Now she and her family cannot praise hospital staff enough for the care they have received.

“They have been excellent, I can’t fault any of them,” said Mrs Bale.

“They are all dedicated staff and kindness itself – I have never, ever met people like it. I would like to thank all the staff at Capener ward and the surgeons, who were fantastic.”

Helen said staff were ‘second to none’: “She is looking very well and the ward is absolutely amazing.

“From the very second we walked into the hospital with the ambulance service – who were also brilliant – to the present, staff in all departments from A and E upwards have been remarkable.”

Fred said he was amazed when the anaesthetist told him his mother’s ability to withstand the operation was just as good as somebody many years younger.

“It is a small hospital compared to others elsewhere, but the professionalism they showed is second to none,” he said.

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