Saturday 13 June 2009


I could do Bury as a random trip to a random northern town, but the place has too much history for me on this occasion.

Bury... so much to answer for. It was the place of two interesting phases of my life: Sixth Form College and my stay at Fairfield Hospital. The former spanned 1988 to 1990 and the latter span a couple of days in March 2009 - sort of.

In September 1988, after surviving high school without too many mental scars due to the fine people at Booth Hall Hospital (possibly another entry), I ended up at Holy Cross Sixth Form College. It's a catholic college and at the time was run by a formidable Irish Nun called Sister Mary Kelly.

I ended up getting a C in General Studies, a D in History and a N in Economics. Not brilliant results, but typical of my style of getting by on a wing and a prayer. If I'd dropped Economics instead of Government and Politics I'd probably ended up at Manchester Poly instead of Sheffield Poly and life would have been different. I do not regret it.

I met my best mate Shaun at Holy Cross College. We met through my car accident - I was the victim and he was the witness. Thing was I'd woken up that morning thinking how would I get away without handing in my essay on the Spanish Civil War (something I know little of to this day). I walked to the road I normally got my bus on, Bury Old Road, and thought instead of crossing at the lights, I'd just cut across the road. Last thing I remember was looking the other way thinking I'd be okay to cross. Apparently I went across the bonnet and ended up sprawed across Bury Old Road. I thought I was dreaming when I came to, but realised that it was real as I remember getting washed that morning. It is amazing what you remember being hit by a car. Anyway I remember trying to stay conscious until the ambulance came. I saw the roof of the ambulance and promptly passed out. Little did I realise it was not a proper ambulance, I was in fact surrounded by a bunch of OAPs on the out patient bus. I ended up at Crumpsall Hospital at 9am and was discharged at 12 noon. After the doctors worrying I had broken my hip, which I had not, I'd only broken my arm and cut my knee, I was discharged. Shaun, my soon to be best friend, went into to college to inform Sister Mary Kelly "Anne-Marie won't be in today as she was hit by a car!" Hilda the nosey neighbour came round to check I was okay - she brought me a v-shaped cushion which was a savour for me. As much as I didn't break a hip, I couldn't walk that well and was in a lot of pain. I was a serious shade of black and blue. When I went to Ancoats Outpatients next day to have my plaster cast redone, I was the slowest person on my feet. The 90 year olds could seriously outpace me that day - a rarity if you know my walking speed.

When I came back to college, Shaun introduced himself and we became best of mates. When he finally came out to me on the bench near the bus stop on Bury Old Road. I remember he said he had something to tell me, as much I wanted him as a friend, I didn't want him as a boyfriend. When he told me he was gay, I burst out laughing. I was so relieved. Shaun is still a fabulous mate to this day and he was the best thing that came out of my time at college.

What other Bury highlights? Oh the day my letter was published in the NME letter. In a daft moment I wrote a letter to the NME about how the music press were hyping the Manchester music scene - it was the Madchester period. I'm positive I wrote it in green ink - the shame! Thankfully it was wonderfully edited from it's rambling original to a tight couple of paragraphs. I've got a feeling it was either Andrew Collins or Stuart Maconie who edited the letter. Anyway I was thrilled and embarassed at the same time when I read the letter in the magazine and had to run a circuit of the college to express my nervous excitement and shame. Obviously these things get round college like wildfire and for a brief period I had notority. Apparently some of Pete's mates found out and I believe I considered cool. Not something I'm used to or lasts long in my life - not like I'm bothered anyway.

Music to me was pretty important in my life at that time as in any teenagers life. I had had a pop epithany in 1984/5 - hence my purchases of Hits 2 and Hits 5. My other half knows if I know a track from that period it is off one of the two albums. I'd had a Joshua Tree / U2 period (although Unforgetable Fire is my fave album of theirs), The Alarm and The Mission (briefly). The Smiths however won my heart and soul in 1987 and they promptly split on me. Damn them! Although my Dad now works with Johnny Marr's dad called Johnny Maher. My Dad is so cool in my books for that connection. I digress - Bury, music and Vibes Record Shop, which I'm glad to say still exists today [edit: sadly it closed in 2011]. Yes, that is where I made my musical purchases - singles were vinyl 12 inches - not a bad investment - and albums were on tape - doh! Although bless my brother for getting me 'The Queen is Dead' album on vinyl when I was laid up at home with a broken arm and barely able to walk. I may have cursed him at the time, but glad that he did. I bought Morrissey's first 5 or 6 12inch singles in there, The Charlatans, Stone Roses and Happy Mondays too. It was a good musical period in Manchester, however the extremely naive me never got to experience it. Only the odd foray into Eastern Bloc Records and Afflecks Palace, which I tended to do at a sprint as I was a nervous teen and it seemed scary to me at the time. Often I had to humilate myself in the shop to purchase for my Dad - Daniel O'Donnell records to be exact - taxi for my streetcred!

Over the years since college, my travels back to Bury have been limited. My ill-fated attempt at an English Lit A'Level at Bury College - got an N. If I had done a resit the next year I would have got it, however by then I was University College Salford (now Salford Uni) doing performing arts. Then there was the occasional shopping trip with my Mother. Otherwise I steered clear. Although when I did my Open Uni course in History of Modern Art I did explore the Bury Art Gallery. It did look like an old lady's parlour with over stuffed walls of 19th century art, although I did rather like that look. It is seriously worth visiting for Landseer's 'The Random Shot' and Turner's 'Calais Sands'. The Landseer is a heartbreaking picture and is arts version of Bambi, but with balls and no compromise. Also any excuse to see a Turner - I can spot them across a gallery at 50 paces - they just spring from the walls with the light Turner paints. For me Turner can beat all those French Impressionists hands down - he truly is the original impressionist.

So years have past and for the past couple of years I've been making regular visits to Fairfield Hospital dueto my faulty thyroid. Originally I had been at North Manchester General Hospital (Crumpsall Hospital - where I'd been born) as an outpatient, however my consultant left and my records were transfered to Mr Shepherd based at Fairfield Hospital. I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's disease, which means my immune system attacks my thyroid, which reduces its function over time. Until this year I have had a goiter (lump in layman's terms). Anyway the consultant, in your typical arrogant doctor type, made me have a gentleman's agreement, which we shook on, to agree to have an operation if my goiter got bigger. I had a couple of ultrasounds over a year and sure enough it got bigger - there was a lump 32mm in diameter to be exact. This year in January, he made me honour the agreement. Believe me I was not happy about it as I have never had an op in my life and I'm very nervous when it comes to blood and needles. He said to me 'I'll sort out the paperwork, otherwise I know you'll walk out the door and not do it'. I muttered in response 'You know me well'. He was right, I would have walked out as I have done this in the past - I wonder if it is on my medical records?

So on March 2nd I had a partial thyroidectomy to remove the left lobe of my thyroid. Apparently you can function perfectly well with only half a thyroid. Anyway the day - I got there at 8am and within an hour and a half I was moved to another ward - ward 14. I had a window bed, which was fine as I like to be out of the way and can observe in peace. Throughout my time there they spelt my name wrong and kept calling me by Anne, which really pisses me off. Only 3 people can get away with that - My Mum, My Dad and My Brother.

I was brought down to the operating theatre at 10.30am and was given anesthetic. All I can remember was lying on gel pads and the anesthestist noted I was quite tall. It took about an hour apparently and it was the only time I was with my consultant.

By 2pm I had come too in recovery. What really brought me round was not the nurse but a rather full bladder - I'd had 3 litres of saline throughout my op. When I got back to the ward, I had my first experience of a commode. At the age of 36 I was not expecting this experience and by my second experience I had vowed never to do it again - the indignity of it all! I'd had a drain attached to my wound and my wound was stapled - I looked like Frankenstein's monster. Although it was possibly a look Vivienne Westwood would have considered in the 70s. High as a kite on the anesthetic, I had to psych myself up to get me and my drain to the toliet every hour on the hour. I went throughout the night too. I must have looked bloody scary to the rest of the ward with the staples and drain. It was a bobbins ward really. There was a really moaning cow in the bed across the ward. Everyone just popped on their headphones to watch the telly or listen to their ipods to ignore her. She complained about the food, the nurses, her boyfriend, her family, everything and everybody. The only person I spoke to was the poor woman who was brought in with gallstones that night. She was vomiting due to a reaction to morphine and on my noturnal trips to the loo, I asked if she needed a nurse. She nodded with her head in the sick bowl.

The food was awful. Why do people assume I am vegetarian? Cheese and milk gives me eczema. The nurses had ordered me cheese sandwiches and quiches. I was so annoyed. The first night I got Neil to get me a tuna wrap from Subway from across the road from where we live. I had my first proper throaty burp in years from it as I no longer had a lump blocking my throat. The next day I was in tears as I couldn't have breakfast - milk based, nor lunch - cheese based. I lived off my mum's grapes that day, which were going off because of the unbearable heat in the ward.

I had an awful experience with the blood pressure monitor too. The velcro strap they attached to your arm to take the blood pressure was worn and dug into your skin. It was so bad it made scratch marks on my arms. By 6am next day I was so pissed off I told them to take it off. Apparently they were worried my blood pressure was low - I was asleep so it would have been! Although I can have quite low blood pressure.

The tea lady kept calling me Anne and despite the number of times I corrected her, she never remembered. She seemed to take offence that I asked for hot water. I had brought my own decaf tea and fruit teas as I knew they wouldn't have decaf. For goodness sake people can be different and I'd even prepared for the fact they would not have anything like that! I know what I like and I'm not going to agree to having something that I don't like to maintain the status quo. Grr...

Anyway 8am next day, one of the consultant's minions was doing ward visits. They said I could have my drain out by lunch time and I'd be able to leave. From that point onwards I was counting down to get out of there. I was like one of those annoying kids who say 'are we here yet?' when they are on a journey. Instead I was saying throughout the day 'can I go yet?' Lunch came and they removed the drain. Although I did cause a fuss when I would not allow a trainee nurse to take it out. It was a good move on my behalf as the drain was done in an unusual way and they had to get a nurse from the ENT ward to remove it. It was a peculiar feeling, which still makes me billous to think about. It didn't hurt coming out, it was an icky feeling. Within five minutes of getting the drain removed I was packed and pestering the nurses to go. They gave me a deadline of tea time - 5pm. Dad came for afternoon visiting and brought me a sandwich, which I was truly grateful for. After the hour visiting had past, I hid Dad on the ward as I didn't want him hanging round on the corridor waiting till 5pm. By half four I was pestering the nurses to go. Finally I broke them and they gave me a bag of drugs and I fled happily from the ward, back to civilization. I really hate hospitals - they are boring, you can't get showered properly and the food is dreadful. When I explained my op to my dentist a few weeks later, he couldn't blame me for getting out of the hospital as quick as I did, more for not catching MSRA and CDiff. I think subconsciously I was worried about that too.

In the end I just spend 31 hours in hospital for my op, but as you can see from my post, it left a lasting impression. In truth I was probably the most healthiest person on that ward, despite the staples and the drain making it appear a lot worse than it was. Six weeks later I got my results from the op. I had a bit of a shock. The lump had been a tumour - a folicular adenoma - thankfully benign. If the consultant had mentioned the 'T' word sooner I would have said 'Where do I sign?' I would not have faffed around delaying the op. However the op has definately made a difference - I can burp, I can sit up in bed without discomfort, I can breathe better and my energy levels seem to be much more even.
Bury... so much to be thankful for, but it's still a bobbins place to shop.

1 comment:

  1. I also grew up in Bury and attended Holy Cross college (years 1990-92) so it's nice to have a blast from past reading your blog.

    Holy Cross must have a strange connection with hospitals - the day before I started I spent 6 hours in A&E having 7 stitches in my tongue following an incident with a rogue fishing hook.

    Also remember getting my name on the illustrious Snooker trophy in 1992 for beating the other (yes, only one) competitor in the competition.

    Sounds like you've had an unlucky time in the past. As Dr Brian Cox / D:Ream would say... Things can only get better.


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