Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Childhood Trauma.

The hospital of 1949 horror still standing, 3rd window from left, 2nd floor.

Indulge me, please, if you would. This is long but heartfelt.

My #2 brother (I have 4) is going through an extremely rough time at the moment on a gurney in a hospital corridor exposed to lights, noise and the comings and goings of strangers. He's only allowed one visitor at a time. If you could call that interrupted and overheard time a "visit". He is very ill with a cancer that has gone crazy in his body and was moved (via taxi!) to hospital yesterday as he had developed clots in his left leg. Public health care in my home country is drastically underfunded and he told me last night that when he asked for a pillow there was none forthcoming as there were no funds for that kind of health care. To call me upset would be understating the whole situation as I imagine myself where he is and would want to die. A 'kill me now' scenario.

I'm in flashback mode Daughter reminded me today.

I'll give you the scene:

A six year old girl (me) in hospital with eye infections after an operation on them, plus a removal of adenoids and tonsils. Blood. Lots. In an adult ward as there were no children's hospitals back then, 74 years ago. Terrified. The adult patients around me "teased" me constantly. In those days child abuse was called "teasing" They told me my parents had forgotten about me, told me I was going blind. You get the picture.

Missing my mother who had two younger boys at home. My bandages were taken off one day and I was told to go into the corner to a baby's cot. Inside that cot was brother #2 with something pouring out of his ears. He was bawling his head off clutching his ears. I remember shutting down completely, holding his little hand. He was only a year old. He still had no words but "mama." 

I worked everything out inside my head. My parents were abandoning us, one by one. But they had missed brother #1 so they must be keeping him. Maybe he was a better child, maybe we were bad children like I was told by the priest at school. All born bad. Only when I had my First Confession would I be cleaned of my  original sin. Maybe I had infected my brother with my sin. As I had already  been told I had infected him with the measles that had put me and him in the hospital. 

Mum arrived that night. She and dad took turns each night. I wouldn't let her go, I screamed and cried and followed her down the stairs hanging on to her and I saw I had made her cry and that made me worse, shouting at her even more to take me and my brother out of there.

The nurses pried me off her and told me how awful I was upsetting her like that and threw me on my bed telling the ward not to speak to me as I was a very bad girl upsetting my mother like that.

My father arrived the following night in a towering rage. He dragged me over to my brother's cot and said I was upsetting everyone, the whole hospital, with my naughtiness and whinging and rudeness, look at my brother crying all the time on account of me.

If I ever did this again, my mother would never visit me. Never. Put that in my pipe and smoke it. Never. And that would mean she wouldn't see my brother either.

And I shut up. I shut up on situations when I shouldn't have shut up. I recognized at a very early age that my feelings didn't count, my voice was of no value. And I could be abandoned at the drop of a hat.

I learned to speak up through therapy and support, not to take things lying down, to call out evil and abuse. To help where I could, to scream and shout at authorities, to advocate for the homeless and seniors in poverty. To see and call out government ineptitude. To write and petition and not ever people-please to make my own life easier and never worry about what "others" might think. My true friends would love me as I love them.

I spoke up today, to my family to do more. To help my little brother more. To get him out of an intolerable situation if at all possible. To fight for him, for that little guy in the cot in the corner, crying himself to sleep. Exhausted.



  1. All I can say is I'm so sorry for what your brother is enduring and what you and he experienced in the past. It is and was horrible.

  2. My heart goes out to you. Then and now. And to your brother and the rest of the family too.

  3. What trauma you endured in childhood and it as so sad to read about your experiences. Even sadder to read about what your brother is currently going through. I hope he will be able to be moved to a less stressful environment soon.

  4. I feel for you as a child - and with you as it was the same here. So much of hospital care back then was so un-understanding of children and their needs that we can only shake our heads in despair thinking back. Your parents were probably told by nurses and doctors that it was not good for you to be seeing too much of them, or to become too attached to them - that you would heal faster left to your own or some such nonsense ... I know my parents were such things - and you obeyed the nurses' commands back then - even if you were smart and adult.
    I feel so sorry for your younger brother now -- all the while wondering why there's never enough money for these things. Everywhere saving measures are implemented, people asked to run faster, opening hours cut down and everything turning more expensive ... where are all those savings going?
    I hope for some good days ahead for him and the whole family despite the bleak situation.

  5. I'm a good bit younger than you and a native American but I can tell you from personal experience that even as late as the '60s & '70s here in the U.S., the medical community was populated by old white men with God-complexes and much trauma was inflicted on children and women under the guise of healing. Your experience sounds horrid and I'm glad you became a stronger person because of it. I'm sad to hear such horrors still exist in first world countries. Thankfully, things have mostly improved here in basic patient care, though our overall system needs a lot of work, as you are probably aware. Sending warm healing thoughts for your brother.

  6. Oh bless his heart, how nightmarish to be left more or less alone, without. Know this has to be so frustrating and traumatizing, your hands tied to assist. I worked in mental health for about 5 years, a nice facility but remembering our state hospitals, looked much like this. Kind of reminds you of some creepy movie sets. Hard to not relive trauma as a child, had some of my own, and takes lots of work to find avenues to get through some moments. Now it's rising up up again as you brother fights through sickness. Sending heartfelt energy that someone comes to his aid, giving attention and comfort. I often dream of being in somewhat a same scenario as I grow older, possibly alone. Hope next time I opened you, things are better. It's good to get loud, sounds like me!

  7. I doubt that was exclusive to Ireland but perhaps made worse by stronger religious beliefs. But how truly awful. You rose above it but I am sure many didn't.
    So now, in modern day Ireland, there isn't a pillow for a hospital bed? A taxi to hospital when he should have the professional care of paramedics? I didn't know Ireland is in such a parlous situation.

  8. I wish this were different, especially so many years later. The first hospital experience I could recall was in 1945, and it was very similar. There was no time for or understanding of a child's needs. I hope your brother's experience is a temporary blip and he is comfortably settled and seen to.

  9. That's just awful. All of it.
    Poor wee things you were in hospital together.
    I'm so sorry you are so far away and sorry your brother is in that kind of hell.
    I send my very best vibes and we'll wishes to all of you

  10. I have heard that many hospitals have closed at home which is shocking in a civilized country. I'm so sorry you had such awful experiences during your childhood. I'm only a few years younger than you but never had anything like you describe happen to me or my siblings. I really hope your poor brother gets some help - mainly for someone to take him out of there. No wonder you emigrated!
    It's ages since I logged on here, but I'm still alive and kicking, just too much unbloggable stuff going on in life. Prayers and best wishes to your brother.

  11. You went through an absolutely awful childhood by the sound of it. And now your brother is in another awful situation, desperate to get out of hospital and escape the demeaning way he's being treated. It seems that healthcare in the Republic isn't any better than healthcare in the UK.

  12. This sounds an awful situation, but yes shout and scream if it means you get the treatment you need for your brother, my heart goes out to you.

  13. This post is just so full of unimaginable things, such unthinking cruelty people inflict on each other. Children and the elderly have much in common in that regard. I am so very sad for you and your brother. I do hope his situation has improved by now, as I am late reading this.

  14. Oh wow, I am so very sorry for all that you and your little brother went through as children and for what he's going through now. This is so cruel! I can relate in some ways, as I was in hospital many times as a child but thankfully this was in the 1980s and 1990s in the Netherlands. Even so, I feel your sense of abandonment. I currently live in a care home and, even though I've endured some traumatic things while here, the things you describe are at a different level. I am so happy that you've learned to speak up through therapy and support and hopefully this will help you advocate for your brother now.

  15. My brother is in a ward and has acres of visitors, he's still in the hospital and starts first serious treatments this Thursday. He was on zoom today, and though incredibly thin he was joking about his IV and highly cognitive on memories, etc. He's always had a wonderful sense of humour and wears the world very lightly.
    Thank you all for your understanding and support. There are so many sad stories of institutions out there and in many ways medical care hasn't changed much for many. I dread being in hospital in old age.
    As do many.

  16. "... wears the world very lightly" - beautifully poetic!

  17. There really is no abyss too deep for humans to sink into. It is a testament to your personal strength that you have come through all this trauma with your sanity and compassion intact. I am sorrowful for the past and for the present and I am honoured to call you my friend. Hugs - David


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