I have just launched my first book entitled A Violation Against Women. This book is the culmination of twenty years of distress and trauma following my experiences at Our Lady Of Lourdes Maternity Hospital, Drogheda, Co. Louth in 1995 when I underwent an unplanned and unnecessary hysterectomy at the hands of Dr Michael Neary.
This is a topic I never would have believed I could or would write about, mostly since I have never written a book before. I never felt copetent enough to write anything. However, in my head, I had ‘penned’ the text many times over the years. Sometimes I would write my thoughts on ‘bits’ of paper and hide them away, so ashamed of how I felt. I was so traumatised most of the time, that when I wrote it was usually in anger, out of bitterness, and usually through floods of tears. I would lie awake at night often reliving my terror and phrasing paragraphs in my head as if I was putting them on paper. It was like running the od video of the source of my trauma. But I was always so embarrassed about what had happened to me , as if I was the guilty person, that I tried to hide my shame from the public eye. Externally, I appeared happy and confident, while inside I felt like a shattered glass. This is a common phenomen amongst people suffering Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome.
Early in 2014, I was at a meeting of ‘Monaghan Women in Business’ where various speakers would be invited each month to address the group. On this occasion, our speaker, herself an author of several books, and who had impressively addressed us at a previous meeting. She believes there is a book in everybody and this was her purpose and on that night. Her mission was to empower ordinary women to feel good enough to get ‘their book’ on paper. It was meant to be a light-hearted and fun evening. She pasted large pages at various locations around the room, each page bearing the name on top for each attendee. Grainne instructed us to “slap our thoughts” on here!
Without a second thought, it was as if the flood gates opened for me. I wrote furiously from my memory using short sentences; these later became my paragraph headings for the book. Going around the room inspecting our respective thoughts, she suddenly called ‘hush’ and declared: ‘this book has to be written yesterday’. That book was mine. Immediately I went into panic mode, totally embarrassed by what I had written and declaring ‘not a chance’. I did not know most of the other women and wondered what they were thinking of me.
As the class ended, Grainne came to speak with me. She was well aware how traumatised I was by even exposing my thoughts. Yet, she begged me to write as she felt this would not only be healing for me but for many others suffering from trauma, whatever their source. That night I came home, opened up my laptop and wrote three chapters.
Over the following weeks as I wrote, I realised that I had been going through a bereavement for years for which I had never got justice. What surprised me, was writing my story was now becoming cathartic and healing. This healing became more powerful the more I wrote. At that stage I had no idea I would ever send it to a publisher: I felt I was not good enough. As far as I was concerned, I would write the book, then put it in a drawer in a safe place to ensure nobody would still know my dark secret. Once again, it was like two steps forward then three steps backwards. Part of me was healing, but a large part of me was still hurting deeply. There were weeks when I could not even visit what I had written; who would read this rubbish anyway? At intervals I sent chapters to Grainne after she kept insisting on seeing my work. She was always so positive but also a constructive critic. She was important for me as ‘criticism’ does not always sit well with traumatised people.
As I progressed through my story, it was as if a flower was unfolding, opening up to full bloom. I began to realize that if this ever saw the light of a publisher, it would act as justice being served. To date, I had not got justice from the courts, I was castigated by reviewing doctors, I was excluded from the redress system: all doors slammed shut in my face at every attempt to get my life back on track. A doctor friend asked if he could read some drafts. He was impressed. He felt my writing had great merit as this was my truth. This story had to be told.
When I got that phone call from the publisher of Liberties Press, who had heard about my story, requesting a meeting, I was astounded.
I was also back in panic mode.
That was such a positive meeting, it took me to a new level of healing. But I also feared rejection of my completed work when the time came. Such is the nature of ‘Trauma’: it zaps one’s self confidence, and can easily throw you back into that dark place.
To those who have feelings similar to how I have described myself, I would like to give you the following quote by Miyamoto Musashi:
“There is nothing outside of yourself
that can ever enable you to get better,
quicker or smarter.
Everything is within.
Seek nothing outside of yourself”.
So reveal the courage you have deep within even if someone has to drag you from within the comfortable walls you have built around you.
While sitting in your darkness, start searching for ‘your’ light.
Share your thoughts and thank you for listening to mine.
You too are a powerful creature capable of emanating love and healing from the depths of your brilliant soul.
(c) Kathleen Ward
About A Violation Against Women
On 10 July 1995, Kathleen Ward went into Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda to give birth. At the hands of Dr Michael Neary, she underwent an unplanned and unnecessary hysterectomy. She was not the only one. Dr Michael Neary performed 188 peripartum hysterectomies over a twenty-five year period, according to the Judge Harding Clark Report. For Kathleen, what followed this violent and unwanted surgery was a dark period filled with debilitating panic attacks and traumatic reliving of the operation. For years, Kathleen fought a tide of misinformation, mishandled evidence and atrocious injustice, seeking recognition and compensation. In A Violation Against Women, she relates her story with honesty and sincerity – the story of how she successfully rebuilt her life following the procedure. Kathleen was a pioneer in the establishment of a multi-disciplinary Clinic in Co. Monaghan and is now in her thirty-first year of practice. Neary has been struck off of the medical register, but walks free.
A Violation Against Women is in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here!