A Missionary Doctor's Autobiography
England and Norway
In 1987, as we neared the end of our term in Hong Kong, I heard that a medical facility was being started in England and felt impressed that this would be something I would enjoy. I made inquiries and was offered the position of being the doctor in charge of the Enton Hall Clinic, in Surrey. This was a project that, with the blessing of the British Union, was being financed by a group of American Adventist businessmen. Several doctors had served, trying to get the project going, but the institution had financial problems.
My personal analysis of the problem was that Enton Hall had been running as a "health spa" and was bought as a going concern. Many of the former employees were kept on and most of them resented the change in policy, such as working on Sunday instead of Saturday, and the promotion of a vegetarian diet. This did not foster a good working relationship. With hindsight it seems it would have been better to close the old institution and start up with new staff and a clear understanding of the principles and policies that we uphold.
In spite of these drawbacks, we spent a pleasant year at Enton, where I was in charge of the medical evaluation and treatment of the clients who came to us from all over the country, and from Europe, America and Africa as well. Many of them wanted to fast to lose weight, others wanted to relax and be pampered. Most of our clients had massage or heat treatments and a few had treatments from our visiting physiotherapist and osteopath. Lilian was roped in to help in the treatment rooms, while I enjoyed giving health lectures and taking the guests for walks in the lovely woods which surrounded us.
The most dramatic event was the Storm of October 1987, which blew down so many fine old trees and caused a lot of structural damage to buildings. Our mains electricity was cut off for several days. Fortunately we had an emergency standby generator which provided power, until the electricity company reconnected us. During this time, some of our neighbours, who still had no electric power, were grateful to accept our offer of a hot bath. Fallen trees blocked our access roads at first but they were soon cleared. Several of our ancient trees toppled or were damaged. One fell on a chalet and another on a garage. We thanked God that no one was injured.
Although I enjoyed the work, the atmosphere was oppressive. So, after just one year, at the time of the annual Board meeting I resigned, even though I had no other job prospects. I visited the Division headquarters at St Albans, and talked to Pr Jan Paulsen, whom we knew from when he was Principal at Newbold. He said, "We have just received a call from Norway for a doctor who is interested in health education and rehabilitation, to work in our Sanatarium in Skogli."
"But that means I would have to learn the Norwegian language", I protested.
"Itís a very easy language", he assured me.
"Thatís all very well for you", I persisted, "itís your native tongue!"
In order to convince me, it was arranged for Lilian and me to fly up to Skogli for a weekend. We were treated royally and decided to accept the challenge and regard it as another opportunity to develop our "adaptability skills".
A six week summer school course was followed by an intensive six month language course at the University of Oslo. I passed the Level Three exam, which would have enabled me to enter the University -- for example, to study for a degree.
Back at Skogli, I had to master all the technical medical terms, but soon was able to take the histories of the patients who came and to write up their notes using my computer, which I had "taught" to cope with the Norwegian language ( Norsk).
Skogli Badesanatorium, to give it its full title, accommodated about 160 patients and the bookings were so tight that a full-time employee was needed to keep track of them. There was a waiting list of those willing to take a cancellation at short notice. Many patients came every year, to have their week of hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and massage, paid for by the state health service. Before leaving, they would book their visit for the following year.
The institution had three doctors and the physiotherapy department had twelve therapists and two indoor heated hydrotherapy pools. That gives an indication of where the emphasis was. Many patients were referred to us immediately following a hip replacement and they usually l went home, fully mobile, within a few weeks.
Lilian did not have a regular job that year, but kept busy with homemaking. She also took evening classes to learn Norsk and for some months kept a diary (dagbok) in the local language.
The changing seasons were fascinating. A colourful autumn was followed by a drab black-and-white winter. Having several feet of snow on the ground for months on end was a new experience for me. But our home was warm and cosy. Spring brought the great thaw and the little rivulet near our house became a rushing stream for a few days. Then there was an explosion of blossom and growth. Plants have to grow and reproduce much faster in the short northern summer than in milder climates.
We enjoyed hiking on the hills and in the forests in the warm weather and learned to do cross country skiing in the winter. We were never really proficient but were able to understand the Norwegiansí love affair with skis.
We had hoped that we cold stay in Norway until I retired but after we had been there one year, the licensing authorities told us that in order to continue working there, I would have to do a two-year internship, at a place of their choosing. This would probably have been some little fishing town beyond the Arctic circle! It was agreed that, at the age of 58, this was impractical. We were sad to leave but it had been a pleasant and educational experience.