Tag Archives: pain

Sticks And Stones May Break Your Bones…but bullying is NEVER OK.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones
But names will never hurt you.”


Sticks and stones photo

I wish I had a pound for every time my Mum or my Wee Gran said that to me while I was growing up. I’d be a very rich girl if I had!
Bullying, for various reasons, has cropped up in several conversations recently. It’s stirred up more than a few ghosts from the past, I can tell you.
The childhood rhyme has played in the background like a soundtrack to my schooldays.
As the summer break draws to a close, if you’re a parent of a child who is being bullied and harassed, or a teacher of a class hiding a bully in its midst, you might want o pause and read the tale my daughter and I are about to share.
I’ll pause for a moment to allow you to reflect before continuing….this is could prove to be a difficult read for some.

I was bullied for six years in school (roughly 1979-1985 if you need a timeframe for reference here). To this day, I have no idea what triggered it but I can recall the first incident as clearly as if it happened yesterday.
It was a wet afternoon interval in school. I was in Primary 5. As a class, we had been painting pictures. I genuinely don’t recall saying or doing anything to trigger this but suddenly a few of the kids in the class were round my desk commenting on my poor artwork. (I never was much use at art and never claimed to be any good at painting.) There was a nasty, hurtful edge to their taunts. My desk was in front of the classroom door. The door to the corridor was open. I bolted!
I ran down the stairs, from the first floor to the basement, to seek refuge in the girls’ toilets. Twenty plus kids from the class followed me- boys and girls. I made it safely into a cubicle near the end of the row and locked the door. Safe. Wrong! All the kids, boys and girls, came charging into the toilets screaming and yelling, hammering on the door, trying to climb over the door and partition walls, trying to squeeze under the door and partition walls. I was absolutely terrified. The bell rang and, gradually, they all retreated. I stayed where I was until all was quiet then returned to my classroom. The teacher asked where I’d been and, when I told her what had happened, she didn’t believe me, suggesting I was lying. Suddenly, I was the one in trouble. I returned to my seat feeling twenty plus smug pairs of eyes watching me.
It all spiralled rapidly downhill from there.
I’m not going to go into this blow for blow (Yes, this went beyond name calling on a semi-regular basis for years)
I was ostracised. Outcast. I was nine years old.
If I arrived at school with something new, shoes or a bag or a coat, I was laughed at and ridiculed. My coat or blazer would regularly disappear from its allotted space in the cloakroom, only to turn up stuffed under a sink or behind a radiator, usually having been kicked about by muddy feet first.
The heavy metal band Iron Maiden with their skeleton mascot Eddie were just coming to the fore and one of the boys, who liked the band, nicknamed me “Beast” after the creature in the song “Number of the Beast”. That nickname stuck for years…. for ever. Kids, sometimes kids I didn’t even know, would grab me by the hair and haul at my clothing to determine if I had “666” tattooed at the back of my neck. Funnily enough, I don’t. Maybe that experience has contributed to the fact that I have no ink on me whatsoever, despite having two designs that in my heart I would love to have discretely tattooed.
The few friends I had in the class vanished into the crowd.
Lunchtimes and intervals became endlessly long, lonely periods of time to be endured instead of enjoyed. I retreated into myself. I kept myself to myself, finding a quiet corner to hide and read my book in peace, losing myself in the words on the pages to escape from the reality I was living.
By the time I reached Primary 7, things were no better. It was in Primary 7 that I remember physically striking back for the first time. I was reading the book My Friend Flicka. Several of the girls were taunting me about it and I was doing my level best to ignore them. Eventually, one, who thought she was being smart, was standing in front of me flicking the book up into my face, chanting “My friend fucka me and I enjoyed it.” I snapped. I slapped her. Slapped her hard.
For a short while, the bullies backed off.
All the while, my mother and grandmother thought they were reassuring me with that old childhood rhyme. They weren’t. My mum had tried approaching the school’s headmaster about the bullying but that only served to make matters worse. One of the kids in my class saw her in the school and told the others. The bullying became even more vicious and hurtful as a result.
My mum and grandmother changed tack as the time approached for me to start high school. Almost daily during the summer holidays, they attempted to convince me that moving to a bigger school meant more opportunity to make nice, new friends. I just listened to them, knowing in my heart that they were wrong.
My primary school classmates found a new bigger, rougher, tougher audience in high school and, for roughly three years, things were worse than ever. Now, it was the boys more than the girls who were my daily tormentors. There were parts of the school I dreaded passing through.
Things hit an all time low one Tuesday afternoon in my second year. Again, it was during an afternoon break when it happened. I was standing quietly minding my own business outside my English class when a boy in my year from a different class came towards me and, without a word, drew his fist and punched me in the face. I felt my nose break. Apparently, I was supposed to have passed comment on his girlfriend’s new haircut. I hadn’t seen the girl and certainly wasn’t aware that she had changed her hairstyle. Why would I even care? I barely knew her. Sitting through that English lesson, trying to staunch the bleeding and trying not to cry was one of the lowest points I can recall.
Eventually, by the time we were all fourteen or fifteen, the bullies grew bored and moved on. I continued to keep myself to myself for most of the time. I’d hide at lunchbreaks, usually in the assembly hall, and write as my means of coping with my reality.
It was all too late though. The mental and emotional damage had been done and those scars run far deeper than any of the physical ones.
I left school in 1988.
Several years after I left school, one of the worst of the bullies reared his ugly head again. I was walking on my own from the branch of the bank where I was working into the town centre to catch the bus home. Along the way, I passed several pubs and as I approached one of these, The Green Oak, a group of drunk young men stumbled out in front of me. Among them was one of the bullies. He recognised me, even in his drunken state and started yelling, “I know you. We called you the Beast in school!” Before I had time to react, they had surrounded me and were all chanting “Beast! Beast! Beast!” At that moment, the bus I was rushing to catch came down the road. Fortunately, the driver recognised me, stopped the bus in the middle of the road and yelled at me to” get on.” I’ve never been so relieved to get on a bus in my life. In those few terrifying moments, I’d gone from a 22-year-old young woman to a frightened 12-year-old in my head.
2010 marked the year that my class turned 40 and a school reunion was arranged. It was the last event I wanted to go to but I reasoned that by going, I might finally put some of the ghosts to bed and get some closure. Two friends, who felt similarly uneasy about it, suggested we go to together. Safety in numbers and all that. The event was arranged via Facebook and, as the guest list grew, so did my nerves. When I saw one name in particular, the worst of the original bullies, appear, I almost changed my mind about attending. Even on the evening of the event itself, I was in two minds about going. I was feeling physically sick with nerves as I left the house. The reunion was held in the local rugby club and was all going well until that person arrived. A group of us were already seated at a round table with a drink when she walked in with her friends. She was all “huggy/kissy” with the people round the table until she saw me. As I looked at her, I realised she had stopped in her tracks and was looking at me with the same childish hatred from 30 years before. I looked away and she moved off. Even, after all these years…..oh, well, I guess leopards don’t change their spots.
I will never attend another school reunion.
That one long look from her opened up all the old wounds.
Sticks and stone may break your bones, but bones mend. Words scar your soul forever.
On reflection, while the years of abuse that I endured seemed never ending at the time, I was lucky.
I was lucky this all happened pre-internet, pre-mobile phones, pre-social media, pre- group chats.
At least when I went home from school, the bullies couldn’t reach me, unless they phoned the house or turned up at the door.
There is little escape from 21st Century bullying. It’s a 24/7 affair with little or no respite.

As a mother, one of the hardest things to watch and handle as a parent, has been seeing history repeat itself for my Baby Girl.
She’s agreed to tell her tale for this blog for the first time, so, in her own words-

“Through my life, my mum has told me about her school experiences, now I’m going to tell you mine.
“School years are the best years of your life” – absolutely bloody not!
So, let’s start from the beginning of high school. In first year, I was no longer “cool” enough for my primary school friends so I had to find a new friend group. I managed that and, as far as I can remember, the rest of first year was enjoyable (apart from getting glasses)
Second year things started to go belly up. This was the year I discovered how imaginative people can be. I can’t remember how it all began but a very hurtful story was invented by someone ( I still don’t know who) and it spread like wildfire around the school. At first people shouted names and comments at me in the social area. Then I lost all the friends I had just made the year before because nobody wanted to be seen to associate with me. One day I couldn’t face another day of it at school so pretended to be sick to stay home. Peace and quiet – or so I thought. By 4 o’clock the messages started arriving. My favourite message was from a boy I had never spoken to saying “Have you killed yourself yet?”
At 12 years old, I remember sitting on the bathroom floor with a bottle of toilet cleaner in my hand trying to grow the balls to drink it.
This was the first time I wanted to commit suicide. This was just the start.
From then on, I was extremely self-conscious. For the next few years I worked to lose as much weight as possible with the hope of disappearing. I became so weak it got to the point I struggled to stand without help. This simply led to more taunting. I was now “a bag of bones” and “a starving African child”. As you can assume, this led to more self-loathing and concerning behaviour.
At this point, I had new friends and I was in that group until one girl decided she didn’t like me and turned everyone against me. Of course, there were a lot of nasty messages sent. I will admit, I responded with my own unhelpful messages, fuelled by pain and anger.
In fifth year, I found yet another group of friends who were outcasts like myself. The comments from classmates had continued from second year but in my last year I found a new way to cope. I started to suffer from health problems, for which I was prescribed 30/500 co-codamol pills. After a few weeks, I no longer needed them but continued to take 8 a day for 11 weeks just to get through school. Being in a constant dazed medicated state made it a lot easier to ignore the comments.
So, to summarise my school experience, it was filled with: people making abusive comments, receiving horrendous Facebook messages, self-hatred and self-harming behaviours. But, at the end of the day, I can say I made it out alive.
Now, at the age of 18, I have considered suicide at least once per day every day. I have been prescribed strong anti-depressants and am open to the community mental health team. I have nightmares most nights, some about events from school.
But, I have 3 amazing friends and a family who love and support me.
Upon reflection, I am glad this happened to me instead of someone else, because the thought of another person going through it is unbearable. But the sad fact is, this happens to hundreds of thousands of kids every single day.”

I knew my Baby Girl had had a rough time throughout high school. In fact, it started in primary school. I knew about some of the bullying. I knew about some of the Facebook messages because she would screenshot them and send them to me.
There’s a lot though in that story that I never knew until she gave me her story to add to this blog a few days ago. At this point in time, I feel as if I have failed her.
21st century bullying is beyond evil and, selfishly, I’m relieved that it didn’t exist while I was being bullied all those years ago. I don’t believe I have the strength of character to survive it.
There is NO escape from it.
Facebook group chats are the worst vehicle ever for it. Countless times, she would show me message chains where the comments were directed at her. They were beyond vile. They had been sent day and night.
I sat on the local high school’s parent council for seven years so speaking to staff without my daughter’s knowledge was easy but proved to be a complete waste of time. I tried time and again but was always told that the school had no control over online bullying. As far as I witnessed, they had little control over the bullying and harassment going on within the school itself. On the odd occasion, when a teacher would listen, they never acted as bullies have an uncanny knack of being the teachers’ favourites, the “cool” kids.
As a parent, I felt helpless. Utterly helpless.
I failed her.

Neither of us are sharing this with a view to gaining any sympathy.
Neither of us are sharing this to point the finger at the bullies. If they happen to read this and recognise themselves, then I hope they feel at least some remorse for their past actions. Somehow, based on my personal experience of my school reunion, I doubt that they will. I think that’s sad…..tragic.

The reasoning behind speaking up now is that summer’s almost over and kids are going back to school. Bullies will be seeking new vulnerable targets. Some kids will be facing the school year with dread.
For what they are worth, my words of wisdom are:
If you are a parent, be vigilant. Teenagers are experts at hiding things from us.
If you’re a teacher, don’t turn a blind eye and presume that its just kids being kids.
If you’re a target (I hate the word “victim”) stay strong and speak up. Don’t suffer in silence just because its easier. Be yourself. And remember bullies are cowards at heart.
If you’re the bully or you were the bully, I hope you’ve learned something from this and use your time to reflect on the consequences of your actions.
Thank you for listening.

For more information and support on this subject –





Our NHS 2018 – a parent’s eye view


It’s that time of year when the news headlines at a local and national level are splattered with horror stories of extensive waiting times at A&E departments across the country and of lengthy response times from the ambulance service.
Unfortunately, over the first few days of 2018 we have had to make good use of the NHS.
I’m not writing this with the intention of seeking sympathy or attention but to highlight the experiences we have shared and to give a parent’s perspective on the issues we encountered.
There are three parts to this tale but I’ll start with a little basic background to set the scene.
My Girl Child developed an inflammatory condition called costochondritis in October 2016. Basically, its an inflammation of the cartilage between the breast bone and the ribs. It is excruciatingly painful and initially presented with symptoms representative of a heart attack. ( Here’s a link with more details – https://www.healthline.com/health/costochondritis#causes) Very scary to witness! After a few weeks, it all settled down and soon she had been pain free for a number of months – happy days!
On 30th December, out of the blue, the crushing, crippling pain hit her again.
Part One
Despite still being sore and worn out, Girl Child went to work on 31st December. Mid-afternoon, I got a call to say she had taken unwell and was suffering from chest pains. As her dad, The Big Green Gummi Bear (TBGGB) flew out the door to fetch her, I advised her colleague to keep her calm. By the time TBGGB arrived at the mall 15 minutes later she had collapsed, had been struggling to breathe and was barely conscious. An ambulance had been called. It took almost an hour for the ambulance to arrive by which time she had recovered enough to be sitting up with a drink of water. The paramedics checked her over thoroughly, concluded that the costochondritis was the most likely cause and, as her observations were all fine, they allowed her to go home with her dad. (He was now almost in need of medical attention having been totally traumatised by the whole thing.) Once home, Girl Child explained that the chest pain itself hadn’t been that severe but that she had felt as though her airway was being crushed. This was a new symptom…. and a worrying one.
Part Two
Mid-afternoon 1st January, she was sitting calmly watching TV in our study, when suddenly and without warning, she fell off the chair and collapsed on the floor out cold. Fortunately, she didn’t hit anything on the way down and after a few long minutes she began to come round. She was fairly unresponsive to basic questions for about 10 minutes. I wanted to take her straight to A&E but was convinced by her and TBGGB to call NHS24 instead to seek their advice. Girl Child explained that the pain level hadn’t spiked this time but again she had felt like someone was cutting off her airways so that she couldn’t take a breath. She compared it to standing on a hosepipe to stop the water coming out.
After being on hold for about 20 minutes, I spoke with a lovely, calming call handler at NHS24. She took all the details, conferred with the onsite clinician then advised me to take my daughter to the emergency out of hours clinic at a nearby health centre. It took about 20 minutes to get to the health centre by which time Girl Child felt OK-ish. With the absolute minimum wait, we saw a GP who again said it all still sounded like costochondritis. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem too concerned about the breathing issues. He prescribed a strong anti-inflammatory gel to complement the drugs she was already taking. It was after 5pm by this time and the local emergency pharmacy was closed. We returned home.
Part Three
Around 3.30am on 2nd January I wakened and heard a strange noise coming from Girl Child’s room. I rushed in and found her struggling to breathe. She wasn’t quite unconscious but again she was completely unresponsive to simple commands like “look at me” and “squeeze my hand”. I wakened TBGGB to help me with her and we considered dialling 999. He talked me out of it. Gradually she began to respond and about 15 minutes later she was back with us. I stayed with her until she settled then returned to my own bed. Sleep refused to come.
My instructions to TBGGB and Boy Child as I left for work a few short hours later were simple. Call 999 if this happens again.
To her credit, Girl Child hung in there all day without any major incidents.
Early evening, we sat down to watch one of the Harry Potter films. I was aware she was a little quieter than normal and was keeping an eye on her. Around 8pm things flared up again. Within a minute she was struggling to breathe, unresponsive and hot and clammy. TBGGB dialled 999 and passed me the phone. I spoke with the operator who was fantastic. She kept me calm-ish and advised me of what to do. Within 5 minutes two paramedics arrived by car. They had only just begun to attend to Girl Child when the ambulance arrived.
Within 10 minutes of dialling 999 my living room was crowded with paramedics. All four of them were brilliant.
Again, all of Girl Child’s observations were within normal limits but she was still struggling with her breathing so the ambulance crew advised that we should attend our local A&E.
After a flurry of fetching shoes, jackets and her medication, I followed as Girl Child was wheeled out to the waiting ambulance. Within minutes we were on our way to the local hospital.
The paramedic asked me to go in ahead of them and register Girl Child’s arrival.
When I walked into the A&E department, total chaos met me at the door. It was like a scene from a news report from a Third World hospital.
The waiting room was full and overflowing. The corridors were full. Every room and cubicle were full.
The information board advised the published waiting time was 6 hours.
I gave the receptionist Girl Child’s details and rushed back round to find her at the ambulance bay. She was wheeled in, transferred to a wheelchair and wrapped in a thin blanket. The paramedic gave a comprehensive handover to one of the nurses who then completed a fresh set of observations before warning us we’d have a bit of a wait to see a doctor. Somewhere in the midst of this TBGGB arrived.
My best guess at the time was around 9pm.
We were all scared. All a bit unsure about what was going on with her health. We’re neither stupid nor selfish and recognised that we were going to be in for a long wait as there were so many obviously sick people around us.
We waited. TBGGB paced. I sat on the floor beside Girl Child keeping a close eye on her.
We waited, watching the scenes unfolding around us, watching the ambulance crews return time and again with more patients.
Around 12.45am Boy Child was summoned to collect TBGGB to take him home. He felt there was no point in us both waiting and cluttering the place up.
We’d been there for roughly 4 hours at this point and, apart from the handover between the nurse and the paramedic, we hadn’t spoken to another medically trained soul. No one had even paused to check if she was ok. No one had paused to check if any of the waiting patients were ok.
Girl Child was asking for a drink of water by this time so I headed round to the nurses’ station to see if it was Ok to give her one and also to ask where to find one. There were three of them there laughing and joking and enjoying some festive treats. I was directed through the maze of short corridors to a water cooler. Not one nurse asked me if Girl Child was ok. Not one nurse asked if her breathing had settled down. I had also taken the opportunity to ask how many people there were ahead of us in the queue to be seen by the doctor and was told that there were seven.
Shortly after 2am the pain flared again and Girl Child began to get quite emotional and distressed. I ran back round to the nurses’ station to seek help. A nurse followed me back to the waiting area, repeated the observations, declared them normal but said she would try to speak with the doctor. While Girl Child struggled to get a breath, I sat holding her, willing this nightmare to end. The nurse returned with two plastic cups – one half full with water and one with some Gaviscon. She handed Girl Child two paracetamol and two ibuprofen and told her to take the lot. The pain was still increasing at this stage and breathing was obviously difficult for her. Girl Child was becoming very emotional. I asked what the Gaviscon was meant to do to help here as she was not suffering from any digestive issues. The response from the nurse was “Dr says she’s to take it.” I asked if there was anything else they could do to help me here with her and was told “No.” I asked, admittedly a little sarcastically, if I needed to wait until she collapsed again out cold on the floor before she got any help. The nurse said “Yes” and walked off.
I was stunned.
It took a while but I kept Girl Child calm and the pain settled down a little and her breathing became more regular once more.
Over the next few hours we went through a tornado of emotions. She cried. She shouted angrily at me. She sulked. She cried some more.
She’s only seventeen. She was scared. We both were.
Girl Child is a student nurse and the scenes around her were adding to her distress. It was going against everything she has been taught. It was breaking her heart to see not only how she was being treated but how many of the other seriously ill and frail patients were being handled around us.
One old man was brought in and parked in a bed beside us. Like we’d experienced several hours before, after the initial handover from the paramedics, no one came near him. He looked like death. No one was waiting with him. He was all alone.
We sat and watched as a woman was brought in by ambulance suffering breathing difficulties and was whisked more or less straight into a cubicle. Girl Child looked at me with both fear and anger as if to say “Why is she being treated and I’m not?”
At some point (sorry, I lost track of time a bit through fear and exhaustion) I went in search of a vending machine. Both of us were hungry and thirsty. The two machines, usually filled with juices and snacks, were empty save for a handful of dodgy looking cereal bars. The tea/coffee machine was out of order. There was nothing available.
At one point shortly after this, Girl Child needed the loo. When I helped her round to the toilet adjacent to the nurses’ station, we observed several of them again laughing and joking, as they shared a pizza. Now, I don’t grudge anyone a little light relief at their work and I’d never deny anyone sustenance but the perception that this created in the circumstances was that these healthcare professionals didn’t care about the dozens of patients and their concerned relatives filling the department, who were finding it a challenge to get so much as a drink of water.
As time dragged on, we both watched several people surrender and head home without being treated, including one patient with a leaking surgical wound.
Still no one came near us. No one came near the old man who by now had fallen asleep or lost consciousness. Who knows! At least we could see he was still breathing.
I went in search of the water cooler once more to fetch myself a drink. The route I’d taken through the plaster room was now closed as the room was in use. An auxiliary was cleaning the floor and I asked her if there was another way through. She asked where I was sitting, said not to worry myself that she’d fetch me a drink and bring it round. A rare moment of empathy and kindness that wasn’t lost on me. At last someone with people’s comfort in mind.
At 4am I asked how far up the queue we were. There still four people ahead of us.
In two hours they had worked their way through three patients….or had they? Had these poor souls actually surrendered and left? I’ll never know.
Finally, just after 4.30am we were taken round to a room. Girl Child was given a robe and told to slip it on and we were advised that the doctor wouldn’t be too long.
Then we waited….. and waited.
We watched the hands on the wall clock crawl round.
Girl Child was getting sore again and emotional.
Knowing it was pointless to seek help, I consoled her as best I could.
By 6.55am we had both reached the end of our tethers. She was sore and exhausted and had been for countless hours. She was sitting on the bed sobbing her heart out. By now I had been up for around 27 hours and was dead on my feet.
Calmly and wearily, I approached the nurses’ station in a final effort to establish how much longer we were likely to have to wait. There were four nurses hanging about- three who had been there all night and one fresh face. Through conversation I established that the doctor had lifted her file several hours beforehand but emergencies had arrived in between but that she would be seen “soon.” I commented that these repeated delays were creating the perception in Girl Child’s mind that no one gave a damn about her. Out of curiosity, I enquired how they prioritised patients, bearing in mind that Girl Child had been brought in by ambulance 10 hours earlier with breathing difficulties and chest pains. I was advised that obviously those most severely injured or ill took immediate priority followed by those who had arrived unaccompanied. I checked my understanding of what I’d just been told and asked that if I had left when TBGGB had gone home and left Girl Child on her own would she have been treated quicker?
“Yes” was the shocking answer. By staying by her side and caring for my daughter, I had delayed her receiving medical attention. That broke my heart. As a parent I was being told I should have abandoned my child to get her help quicker. I was beyond disgusted.
The nurse checked to see if she could confirm when we would finally be attended to. A young female doctor sat in an alcove to the side writing up her notes. She commented bluntly that she would be with us in a few minutes. Politely I thanked her and advised her that Girl Child was quite distressed and at the end of her patience and that she was very scared.
At 7.25am, 10 and a half hours after arriving at A&E by ambulance, the doctor came into the room. To my absolute horror, she proceeded to lecture my distraught teenage daughter in the most patronising tone of voice that they had had a very long busy night dealing with many patients who were more ill than she was and that three folk had in fact died. My daughter was sobbing her heart out throughout this lecture. She was now in a lot of pain and very frightened as well as being utterly exhausted. The doctor, in a challenging tone, asked her what she wanted to do. Girl Child sat there sobbing, “I just want to go home.” The response from the doctor, “So you want to go home and me not to treat you.” Girl Child was by now sobbing even harder and repeating “I just want to go home.”
I intervened, struggling to remain calm. How dare this doctor speak to my daughter or any other patient for that matter in such an unprofessional manner? She should be ashamed of herself!
After a cold, blunt discussion about what had been going on with Girl Child since 30th Dec, she fetched her two strong co-codamol to help with the pain then checked her over, declaring that it was most likely just a panic attack but that she would instruct an ECG to check her heart. She advised that if the heart trace was clear we could go home. I quizzed her on the panic attack comment, reminding her that this episode had started while we were relaxing watching a DVD. She was extremely dismissive of my concerns and stated it was a panic attack linked to the costochondritis.
She left.
Girl Child broke down again.
A short while later, a lovely nurse came in, helped calm Girl Child down, repeated all the basic observations, ran the heart trace which was thankfully normal, then asked if we’d been left a prescription for pain relief. I advised that we hadn’t and that I didn’t have anything strong enough at home. She said not to worry that she’d sort something out for us. A second moment of refreshing empathy and compassion.
Shortly after 8am we left the hospital.The board advising the current published waiting time was still showing 6 hours.
We had been in A&E for over 11 hours.
I was beyond relieved that they hadn’t found anything seriously wrong with my baby girl. I was beyond disgusted by the whole experience.
Having read a report in our local paper, other people have reported similar experiences that night. Knowing we’re not alone here does not help.
I’m a reasonable person. I don’t expect special or priority treatment for my daughter. We were happy to wait our turn. Ok not so happy about the length of the wait but understanding of the situation.
I was angry at the way I was spoken to when I asked for help and disgusted to be told that she’d need to be out cold on the hospital floor before they’d see her at that point in time.
I was angry at the lack of basic courtesy displayed to everyone around us for all those long hours. A quick “You still ok there? We’ll be with you as soon as we can.” goes a very long way.
I sincerely hope that the old man who lay beside us for all those long hours with no one near him wasn’t one of the three patients who sadly passed away.
I was disgusted to be made to feel that I had delayed my daughter’s treatment because I had done what any caring and concerned person would do and stayed by her side all night.
I was beyond furious by the attitude displayed by the doctor when she finally got around to attending to Girl Child. For a doctor to address anyone in that tone of voice and to use such patronising language is despicable, made worse in this instance by the fact that I had already highlighted how scared and distressed my daughter was.
I’ll not even begin to list the number of breaches of basic nursing protocol or hygiene on a professional practice level that my daughter noted. All I can say is that no wonder bugs spread like wildfire through hospitals if this is typical behaviour!
To the paramedics and ambulance crews – thank you
To the young female police officer who we spent countless hours chatting to – thank you for your company. It kept us both sane all night.
To the auxiliary who displayed simple human kindness towards me – thank you.
To the remaining medical staff whose paths crossed ours – thank you for destroying both my daughter and I’s faith in the emergency medical system.

The Lasting Impact of One Word……one small word……Beast

I read an article the other day that was encouraging people to try creative writing to improve brain power. The exercise that the article suggested the reader complete was to list all the names you’ve ever been called- good or bad- then write about one.

This triggered a flood of memories.

There was Razzle Dazzle that my dad used to call me when I was wee.

There was 10cc that a neighbour called me the year I turned ten. My initials then were CC and he was a fan of that particular band.

With a name like Coral, there was the obvious Coral Reef and various other fishy, ocean themed attempts from time to time.

The name however that sent a torrent of painful memories through me; the name that chilled me to my very core even all these years down the line was Beast. The name the school bullies cursed me with.

My mind was suddenly overflowing with flashback memories from my school days. I could hear their feet thundering down the stairs in primary school as they chased me. I could see the faces of the people who taunted me. I could feel their breath on my neck as they yanked my hair from my head to see if I had 666 tattooed on my skull. I could hear their voices filling my head.

Over thirty years later these wounds still run deep and I doubt if some of them will ever be fully healed but one simple word, one name, opened a fair few of them back up.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones but names can never hurt you,” my mother used to council.

She was wrong.

For just shy of six years I endured the school bullies abuse, usually verbal but occasionally physical. I thought naively that when I moved up from primary school to secondary school that my daily torment would stop. I was sadly mistaken. In fact, for more than two years, it was worse as my primary school bullies now had a larger audience and swiftly recruited new blood.

I was almost fifteen before the last chants of “Beast” died away.

By then the damage had been done.

Years later I had the misfortune to encounter one of the boys I had been to school with. He came staggering out of a local pub with several drunken friends, recognised me as I walked down the street on my way home from work and, before I knew what was happening, they were all round me chanting “Beast. Beast. Beast” incessantly. Suddenly I was 12 years old again instead of the 22 that I was. Fortunately my bus came along, the driver recognised me and the ugliness of the situation and, despite it not being a “bus stop”, pulled over and shouted on me to “Get on!” I was never so relieved to see anyone in my life.

The year I turned 40 a school reunion was organised. The thought of attending terrified me but I knew it was my final chance to conquer my fears and lay the ghosts to rest once and for all. I was reasonably in control of my emotions during the run up to the event until I saw one name appear on the list of people who would be attending. The main instigator of my childhood torment was going to be there.

I very nearly changed my mind but the stronger voice within me lectured my quivering self and said I wasn’t going to let the bullies win again.

When the time came I went along to the event in the local rugby club, flanked by two friends, with my stomach heaving with fear and dread. I don’t regret going for one second however I will never attend another reunion. The bully in question arrived after my friends and I were seated with a drink. I watched them greet our former classmates in turn but, when their eyes met mine, the same look of hatred and loathing from more than a quarter of a century before was staring back at me. Some leopards never change their spots. I turned away.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to sail through life and never experienced bullying at first hand then I expect this is difficult to fully comprehend. If you have experienced bullying then I’m sure you understand only too well the emotions that can be stirred by a name. If you have been the bully then I hope that you never have to experience the pain that you put your victims of choice through.

To this day, I don’t know what started it all. I’ve no idea what minor or major thing triggered it all. I’ll never know ……   But it is all symbolised in a name.