I enjoyed my chat with Joe Duffy on the Liveline show today. While I spoke on the subject of facial disfigurement and how burns affected me, I wasn’t the only one speaking. Denise Lehane was particularly inspirational. She is a wonderfully confident young woman who has endured over 100 operations to her face and body and is not allowing the accident dominate her life. How wonderful to hear that.
I was delighted when Cecilia Brooks came on later in the show to say she remembered me when she was a trainee nurse in the South Infirmary back in the 1950s when I was a patient. It’s lovely to find someone who was part of my life back then who can provide an insight into the hospital regime there. It sure as hell was an eyeopener in terms of how unfriendly it could be for visitors, a point I made myself about Irish hospitals back then. Bad enough to be in hospital, but for a child to be there for months and sometimes years must have been even more traumatising for parents and patient.
For a time I wrote a television column for the then Cork Examiner and because my photo was also featured I met some of those fantastic trainee nurses who either came up to me on the street or wrote very kind letters. I’m only sorry I never took the chance to talk to them in greater detail about my time there. So I was really delighted when Cecilia turned up out of the blue on radio to recall my hospitalisation. I hope to connect with her and discover a little more about her time there, and in particular what she remembers about me.
One of the points I was making on Liveline is that the psychological effects on me only surfaced years after the accident. There was no support back then, no professionals who could allow me to express my growing fears and anxiety, no one who could assure me I would get through it. Instead I closed the world off, didn’t trust my friends to understand my pain, and felt abandoned and unloved. There is so much support nowadays to ensure the facially disfigured can lead a normal life, not restricted by how they look. The high visibility of amazing people like Katie Piper ensures it’s not a hidden world anymore, that those of us with a facial difference should no longer be afraid.
As usual there was a flurry of supportive tweets on the Twitter machine, and texts and phone calls. My son was having breakfast in New York and was surprised to hear dad suddenly surface on the airwaves. My mother, who I had tipped off about my radio appearance, phoned later to say she didn’t recognise my voice straight away, and wondered if I had lost my Cork accent. Perish the thought!