Did Ringo nearly die in childhood?

Richard with his mother, Elsie

The then Richard Starkey experienced two major medical episodes. According to Lewisohn, Richard Starkey was 'a robust infant' but fell 'dangerously ill in the early summer of 1947'. 

Rushed by ambulance to the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital, the six-year-old was diagnosed with acute appendicitis. An operation revealed that the appendix had burst causing infected peritonitis.

As he was wheeled into theatre, Richard requested a cup of tea. 

The nurse responded, 'When you come round,'  She kept her promise but it was ten weeks before Richard got his tea. In that time, his mother Elsie was told three times that he would not survive the night. One of these occasions was the eve of his seventh birthday.

He continued to slip in and out of consciousness for several months. Even when he left hospital at the beginning of 1948, convalescence from his surgical wounds was slow and painful. There was also a set back which prolonged his stay: "I fell out the bed and ripped open all these stitches in my stomach. So they had to dive in again and sew me up.”

Second Medical crisis

One fully recovered from peritonitis,  Richard Starkey appeared to return to robust health. Then six years after the first medical disaster came a second: pleurisy.

Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital, Livepool (now closed)
In early June 1954, he returned to the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital. During a ten week stay his condition developed into tuberculosis. TB - the scourge of industrial cities - was still endemic in Liverpool, which had one of the highest rates in Europe. 

TB was still potentially fatal - George Orwell had died from complications just four years earlier. But the arrival of antibiotics came to the rescue of the thirteen year old Richard, as he later movingly described

“God, you know, shined his lights on me in 1953 or ’54 when they discovered Streptomycin. And that’s what saved me.”

Once the danger was passed he was sent off to the hospital's convalescence unit. This was Heswall, across the Mersey and away from smog.

So they shipped me off to a greenhouse in the country… just this huge greenhouse where instead of flowers, they put all us kids in there and let us breathe some decent air for a change and gave us streptomycin. 

He was still there at the beginning of 1955, a bored, restless thirteen year old, isolated from his peers and falling ever further behind in educational terms. He did have his first drum, though..

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