Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dear Mr Birkin

(A response to a writing challenge set by Rosalind.)

Dear Mr Birkin

Did you know all those years ago how much I hated coming to see you? You represented a lot of pain and suffering in my childhood. Because of what you did to me and inflicted on me I became a victim in almost every area of my life. You made me look different, so I was the target of teasing and bullying from practically every kid in school. (Except Brian, but his sister was one of your patients too, so he understood.)

Let's face it, what you had to do to me was awful. You encased me in a metal frame that forced my spine to stay straight and I had to wear it night and day for years. I could only take it off when I had a bath, then it was back on before bed. Sleeping in it was hard. It was so uncomfortable with its wide leather belt around my middle from hips to ribs, buckled in tight so it wouldn't slip.

Then the metal bars that held up the headrest. They had sliding bars that were held up with screws and bolts. The screws ripped the sheets and my clothes and sometimes they ripped me if I tried to stretch across my front to reach something I wanted.

Yes, coming to see you was always a low point in my life and sometimes we had to do it every two weeks and that was dreadful because it was 60 miles away. People today don't realise how far away 60 miles was back then. You couldn't do it in less than a couple of hours and we always got appointments for early in the morning so we had to set off when it was still dark to be there on time. But when we arrived we were all called in what seemed like a random order, so sometimes we sat in that boring waiting room for another two hours before I was sent for X rays, then another hour before we finally got to see you and whichever medical students you had with you that day.

Do you have any idea what it does to a child to stand, half naked, while total strangers prod and poke you and treat you like a piece of meat? I was never asked if I minded being on show; never asked if it was OK to pull and push me around and stare at my half-naked and probably very cold body.

Three operations and years of X-rays and scans and photos and prodding and poking and being ignored when I asked questions. It went on till I was 21, remember?  I was still standing half-naked in front of total strangers when I was 21!  Then you said ' Right, OK.  I don't need to see you again.' and that was it. No fanfare. No fireworks. No real goodbye. Nothing.

The one thing in my life that I had looked forward to for as long as I can remember was handed to me and then nothing. 21 and nothing left to look forward to. Why, among all the years of treatment, hadn't you warned me that I would need something afterwards? That there would be an afterwards? I had to rebuild my life from scratch and it's not been easy.

So why, all these years later, do I remember you fondly?  You made my life hell. But the thing is, you made my life.  Without your treatments I'd have died years ago, my internal organs crushed within my failing skeleton. So thank you for everything you did. Even though I hated every minute of it.

with brian G
Me and Brian - who didn't bully me because he understood. 
(Published as written - no corrections. So I apologise for inconsistent hyphens and any typos you find.) 


Rosalind Adam said...

My goodness. What a memory my writing exercise evoked for you! I'm glad it had a positive outcome, the writing exercise and the treatment too, of course.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Hi. I popped over from Rosalind's blog to see the letter you wrote. Wow! Those must have been very trying times for you, but thank goodness you made it through, and now can put those dreadful times into perspective. Writing this letter must have been very cathartic for you.

Nice to meet you! Good job.

snafu said...

It is good that after all that awful treatment, you have turned out to a caring and concerned individual and have not used it as an excuse to behave badly.

Anonymous said...

The bullies should, of course, have been taught not to bully. They should have been made to understand what bullying does. So glad you got through it all, somehow. -Miriam, visiting from Rosalind's blog.