Argh I’m 27…an amazing birthday and the Pride of Trinity Mirror


IMG_6843

I can’t believe that I’m 27. Well, actually, if we are going to be pedantic about it, I’m 27 and two days old (which makes me sound like a little kid trying to sound older). I know it will sound silly, but I already feel ancient. It’s probably a combination of the left-over dregs of flu, far too much alcohol due to a number of booze-fuelled celebrations, and a lack of sleep taking its tole, but every day since my birthday I’ve woken up feeling on the verge of my 90th!

Looking back there is nothing that I really regret about my 26th year on this planet. I’ve had surgery, tests, blood, guts, gore. Met amazing people, told truly inspirational stories. Worked at the Mirror, stayed in London, met royalty, seen a Broadway show and hundreds of dragonflies. Rode insane rides, climbed the Empire State Building, appeared on the BBC, waved a wand in Hogwarts, been to Wimbledon – and many more magical things.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For the second year running I celebrated my birthday surrounded by incredible journalists and editors who work for Trinity Mirror, rubbing shoulders with people who both inspire and astound me with their talents and passion. Last year I was honoured (and astounded) to be named the Young Journalist of the Year, this year I just drank too much and met the queen of Countdown.

IMG_6847

Joking aside, I was humbled to be highly commended in the New Reporter of the Year (regional) category. The journalist who won the title, Neil Keeling, is incredible – he continued producing exclusive stories for the MEN despite suffering from kidney failure. I felt embarrassed to even be put in the same category as him to be honest!

Anyway, on my birthday I woke up with a pounding headache, and a memory of far too much wine, talking, and general fun following a very glitzy awards do. I dragged myself to the conference and had to put up with my ostomy making the rudest noises ever (as per usual when I’m hungover) while sat next to a room of highly influencial people (as I tried to listen to the speakers) , who have the ability to hire me and fire me, many of whom were sitting within hearing distance – typical!

Returning home on the train, clutching my certificate and a notepad of ideas for the office, I wanted nothing more but to go to bed and curl up with a yummy hot chocolate. Instead I unwrapped gifts (yippee), opened cards and was forced back into the cold for a lovely meal with my boyfriend.

IMG_6837

It was a stunning evening, filled with laughter (especially when the waiter got the whole restaurant to sing to me in my old name as it was on one of my cards on the table) and surprises.

Andy – god knows why he sticks by me – managed to totally shock me for the first time in our relationship, by keeping a secret for months on end. He had managed to plan a five day holiday to Bruges, complete with a spa break, rail travel and stunning hotels, without letting slip at all. He even booked the time off for me – so my editor was complicit.

How none of this leaked out totally flummoxes me! But he managed it, and it is the most stunning and magical gift I could have hoped for after our amazing trip to America earlier this year (which i am determined to blog about by the end of the week).

IMG_6831

So, despite feeling ever older and tired due to the Winter cold, this year I have had an amazing birthday, and got some lovely presents from my friends, family and colleagues… here’s to many more to come.

Advertisements

A close call in court – the joys of court reporting with an ostomy and IBD


Before my operation my Crohn’s/Colitis made court reporting an almost impossibility.

Exactly!

Exactly!

I used to sit in agony in courtrooms wringing my hands together until they went white with pain under the press desk, jiggling my legs up and down to try to distract myself from the agonising need to go to the toilet – a need that never left me and always raised its ugly head at the most important moments of a case.

Covering the courts became both a joy and a punishment for me. The real challenge lay not in the reporting of the cases but the endless sitting and waiting, waiting, waiting for your case to come on. For most people the waiting would just be boring, for me it was agonising. While I was interested in the cases (if you have never sat in court and listened to mitigation and witnessed the general drama it is definitely a must – and is nothing like the telly) the constant need to race to the toilet every ten minutes made the waiting unbearable. I once dared to nip to the toilet after waiting through around three hours of driving offences, curfew amendments and restraining orders while feeling like my stomach was being ripped apart from the inside by a claw hammer. I remember racing out of the courtroom to the toilet – which is NEVER near enough to the courtroom you are in – thinking it will just be my luck if they finally hear my case now. I finally raced back to the courtroom five minutes later, still very much in the grip of the blood and pain, only to bump straight into the barristers for my case as they walked towards the Robing Room having heard the case – just typical.

Lesson learned – in the past two years I would rather have passed out than nipped to the toilet again!

Yes, I admit it the fear was always very real that I would pass out through the sheer effort of staying up right in my seat, and I am sure there were times that a jury member or even defendant has looked at me and thought ‘dear God that woman is about to collapse’. I lived in fear of an accident, and in even greater fear of someone making me move whenever a wave of pain flushed over me – when I was still I felt slightly more in control. And I am sure that all the press benches in the magistrates and crown courts that I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in have finger nail marks indented so far into the underside of the wood their imprints could almost be seen through the top.

So after years of covering court cases with the nightmare of my constantly flaring Crohn’s/Colitis, dealing with my ostomy while doing my job seemed like a reality walk in the park. Yes there was always the slight embarrassment of having my ostomy bag changing kit searched through by the security team, (and once or twice having to hand in my rounded cutting scissors at security as a ‘dangerous’ implement) but apart from that attending court was a relatively easy experience. So imagine my surprise when today my ostomy started acting up while I was sat in court patiently listening to each case and waiting for a jury to return. I won’t go into details but I could feel something was going on, and going on, and going on…and boy it just wasn’t holding back, in fact Winnie was going hell for leather. And for the life of me I couldn’t understand why.

So the next two hours were quite frankly hell. I quickly realised that Winnie was going to have to be emptied or we could end up with a pretty crazy situation in the courtroom. Basically Winnie was a ticking time bomb, and I sat sitting nervously trying to concentrate on my shorthand and what the counsel were saying to try to distract myself from the imminent explosion that was building up inside me. The pressure was unbelievable…but I was determined not to leave the room..my old fears about missing things while on the toilet returned and after grimacing through some of the worse pain of my life, there was not a chance in hell that I was going to miss the verdict because of my ostomy – yes, that is how stubborn I am.

Ok, the situation was made worse by my remaining colon continuing to contain active Colitis and me feeling the need to go all the time. The whole thing was unpleasant to say the least, and I just knew I needed to rehydrated and possibly stuff my face with marshmallows to stop this onslaught from Winnie or I would be in a whole new world of trouble soon.

The moment the judge broke for lunch was a blessed relief. I think I actually sighed audibly. As I stood up the weight of Winnie was horrendous and I had to hobble like I had bricks in my pants down the stairs, round the corner to the loo. Court toilets are never an extremely pleasant experience, but I won’t bore you with that.

By the time the day was over I had avoided several natural disasters and learnt a real lesson. While I was in agony with my IBD and the urgency and pain often led to accidents, I could often cope even though it meant me almost passing out with pain until I had a chance to reach a bathroom – with my ostomy this is not the case. There is no grin and bear it. Yes the pain is considerably less, yes the blood is there but it isn’t by the bucketload, but no I can’t stop the flow or ease the pressure when its started…if I wait, sooner or later she will fill up and then, eventually….BOOM! (now that would be a story)!

I will have to learn to cope with it. I love court reporting and I love my job, but I have to keep a close eye on things and remember I’m no superwoman, I’m still human…and, well, Winnie is just a stoma bag she’s not a miracle worker.

Ostomy a fate worse than death – according to police it is!


So according to Cincinnati District 3 police I am ‘gruesome’, ‘disgusting’ and have been sentenced to a fate worse than death.

A fate worse than death - really???

A fate worse than death – really???

If you are a young person with an ostomy or colostomy bag it seems you’re unattractive, disgusting and won’t be able to get any girl or fit guy to go near you with a ten foot barge pole. You will be pointed at, laughed at, and be seen by the world as one big joke, whose life and partying days are over now that you have lost one of your vital organs and are having to spend the rest of your life wearing a bag of poo on the outside of your body.

Ok, before you all start throwing things, lighting torches and chasing me down the high street, these are not my words but the words of a very naive police force in the USA who have decided to use colostomy bags as ‘scare-tactics’ for teenagers to stop them playing with guns and well, basically, to attract coverage from the world media.

According to said police force, having a colostomy or ostomy bag is comparable to being paralysed. And, as if they couldn’t be anymore offensive to the millions of brave people who live everyday with an ostomy or colostomy, it almost sounds like this police force are saying that it would be better to die if you are unfortunate enough to be shot than to live the rest of your life with a bag.

The new programme, which will be rolled out amongst troublesome teens, gangs and young offenders in Cincinnati (USA), will see the at risk teenage boys shown ‘gruesome’ pictures of gun shot survivors with ostomy bags, to show them exactly how unattractive they will be if they are still alive after being shot.

In fact in a television interview Lt. Joe Richardson of Cincinnati District 3 police said this horrific statement, which made me want to throw my shoe at my new laptop and grab him by the collar and shake him for the shear stupidity and naivety of his pig-headed narrow-minded point of view:

“You’re not killed, but you’re walking around with a colostomy bag and that’s just not the way to get a girl’s attention by limping down Warsaw Avenue with a colostomy bag,”  said Richardson.

To say this is the wrong sort of message to be putting into the world about ostomy and colostomy bags would be an understatement. It would also be a massive understatement to say that I was offended by what Lt. Richardson has quoted to the world media. As a young woman with an ostomy bag I feel revolted, disgusted and quite frankly betrayed by this police force, who have decided to turn our life-saving bags into a device of torture, revulsion and torment.

Not that bad - i don't think anyway

Not that bad – i don’t think anyway

Of course I understand what they are trying to do…they are trying to make these troubled teens change their lifestyles before they end up dead, and they think that showing them pictures of young men who are just like them with ostomy bags will change their ways. They think that these kids will be revolted and disgusted by what they see. And perhaps they will, perhaps they will think twice, perhaps they will decide to get out while they can and avoid destroying one of their major organs by not getting shot and having to have their bowel removed.

But what about all those people, like me, like many of the brave people I have met online, who live everyday with an ileostomy or colostomy. What sort of message is this police force, through this campaign, giving to the world about us? We are brave people who have been through major illnesses; Crohns, Colitis, Cancer; or who have been in horrific accidents, and yes, some of us might even have been shot. But you know what? We have come out of the end of these horrific experiences alive and kicking, and that is mostly down to the life-saving operation and to our new friend – our bag!

To say that we are gruesome, revolting and that we won’t be able to find girlfriends or boyfriends because of having this essential thing, which, by the way if we didn’t wear we could be dead, is disgusting. Whoever came up with this campaign really didn’t think. They were so set on trying to get a message out there, to tackle a problem, to attract media coverage for their ‘amazing’ new programme, that they didn’t think about the consequences of their words and what they could do to all the young people who already struggle to live with their ostomy bags.

What about the teenage boys who are living in that state who have ostomy or colostomy bags, how are they meant to feel about this? As a 20-something-year-old living in the UK I find it hard enough some days to feel confident with my ostomy, to feel sexy, womanly and attractive. But imagine waking up one day as a teenage boy in a society where everyone judges on looks to find that your police force has branded you as an ‘untouchable’…and told your college, school, friends, teachers and all the gun-waving criminals that you are a freak and that you may as well be dead.

Do you think they will get girlfriends now? Do you think they will be able to enjoy the normal life that their bag has been allowing them to live, free from constant toilet visits, pain or even hospitalization? The answer is of course not…

It is taking a long time to change the general public’s opinion of colostomys and ostomys and articles like this make it even harder. Here, instead of talking about the bravery, the battles and the success stories they are painting these brave teenagers and kids who have had major organs removed as freaks and untouchables.

I for one will be writing a strongly worded email to both the police department and the television network to express my anger and disgust about this campaign and their lack of sensitivity towards a huge section of society.

http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/region_west_cincinnati/price_hill/cincinnati-police-hope-to-sway-teens-with-photos-of-colostomy-bags-paralyzed-shooting-victims