Time in Hospital

Christine O'Mahony: Ice Cream 99

Christine O’Mahony was born in 1952 in Northampton. As a young child Christine spent time in Nazareth House children’s homes with her two sisters, before returning to family life in Camden, London aged five. Christine attended local C of E and Catholic primary schools and a local Catholic Secondary School, also spending time in hospital aged seven.

Here Christine talks about her experiences in hospital and the impact on her family relationships.

  • Christine O'Mahony
  • Christine O'Mahony
  • Christine O'Mahony


We had one of those school medicals and the nurse discovered I was deaf in one ear. And she discovered it by whispering, ‘Ice cream, 99,’ into my ears and getting absolutely no reaction on the right hand side. And suddenly the world went mad and, you know, I was being taken up to Great Ormond Street and having tests and treatments and things a lot, you know, kind of on a weekly basis. And they used to do some strange stuff like they used to pump water up my nose, I remember that’s a really, really horrible thing, you know. They did a lot of I think experimental stuff on us, you know, poke things down our ears and up our noses and, you know, through our throats and things. All of which made no difference whatsoever. And I had about three hospitalisations I think during that year for different operations.

And they kept you in bed most of the time, you know, these days my grandson’s regularly in Great Ormond Street and it’s all play, play, play, but in those days it was strapped in tight, you know, keep you tidy and if you had anything to play with it would be a little puzzle or something that your parents brought you in. It was just very, very boring and very lonely and I really missed my sisters, they weren’t allowed to visit, I missed them terribly, you know.

And I kind of went from being a healthy kid to a not healthy kid, I think because of it, you know, that was when I started these migraines and things like that. All through the school holidays I wasn’t kind of fit to go out to play with my sisters and things. And by the time I was, they just really resented me, you know, they’d gone off me completely and it broke my heart really. And they started bullying me quite a lot as well, and they didn’t want to know about me being deaf, they didn’t want to know anything about hospital or anything and I wanted to tell them about it and I think they resented the attention I’d got for it. And I did too ‘cause I didn’t even really know my mum and dad that well, I didn’t really want these two people to come and visit me ‘cause I didn’t know what to talk to them about and they didn’t know what to talk to me about.

So my mum’s reaction to their bullying was not to intervene, she was chronically depressed herself so her line would be, ‘Oh don’t worry, we’ll have some sweets,’ you know, she would send me up the road to buy a bar of chocolate for her, they’d go off out without me, and she’d send me to buy a bar of chocolate for her and some sweets for me. Which she wouldn’t have done if they’d been home ‘cause she couldn’t afford it. So you know, I then got this sort of sweets as compensation for pain, again, you know. And then I think I started to put on weight, I started to eat bizarre things, I wouldn’t eat at the table, and I used to eat bread and dripping several times a day and sweets.

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