Patient narrative

“When we sought a second opinion the doctor told me I was attention seeking and asked my mother if there was something going on at home that would have me act out in this way.

“I’ve had doctors tell me I was purposely not relaxing my muscles to make the pain worse,  that I was faking it and making up how painful my periods were,” said Noelle.


In The Good Mother, Moriarty writes with compelling authority about the world of hospitals; the febrile atmosphere, the logistics, the visceral reality of being an unwilling patient in a hospital bed, when you’d rather be literally anywhere else in the world. She probably didn’t realise it, but her own unexpected stint in hospital some time ago gave her first-hand experience to draw on for this novel.

A year ago, Moriarty was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, something that she is now choosing to speak publicly about for the first time.

“I had a sore knee for no reason,” she recalls. “I had iced it, taken anti-inflammatories, had physio, and it still wouldn’t go away. I was freezing during the day, and waking up at night drenched in sweat, and was exhausted all the time.” Her GP sent her for tests, and she remained in hospital for a week.

Emotionally it was draining, constantly feeling like I couldn’t do stuff, missing activities, missing school. I had appointments every six months. At one of these, in 2014, when I was 12, I was told to throw the brace away, that it was no good for me anymore and that I would just have to go for the operation. I was told I was now on the surgery waiting list.

We had known I would need surgery from the start so I was prepared for getting the news. But then we just waited to hear when I would actually have the surgery. I was always thinking “maybe it will be this month”, but it never was. That was so frustrating. My parents were annoyed as well, they felt that there was no forward planning; all along, the hospital knew I would have surgery but they waited until it became critical before putting me on the surgery waiting list.”


In the hospital, they would use the word deformity in front of me a lot. I know that’s what it is, but when you’re 13 or 14, it’s not nice to have adults talk like that and say things like “your deformity has got significantly worse” right in front of you. The consultant was good at talking to me and explaining, but he wasn’t always available when we went up, so we wouldn’t always see him; when we didn’t it wasn’t always as easy for me, it could be very formal and ‘doctory’, and, ironically, I felt a bit out of place in a children’s hospital!

I was told in February 2015 that I was going to have my operation and the date was set for March. Because my curve was so bad by that point I was going to need two surgeries. Initially I just thought it would end up being another “it’ll happen next month” thing but as the date came closer we started to feel like it was actually going to happen this time.

For Savita Halappanavar

The procedure complete, I wake alone.

The hospital sleeps…

As a former nurse, she knows how death works. “I know the things I don’t want. I don’t want to end up in hospital having to be fed with a peg feed through my stomach and I don’t want a drip. Just so long as they inject me with painkillers to keep me comfortable that’s it. I don’t want anything to prolong my life.”

Full article in Irish Times here >>>

“The arthrodesis happens, and after 10 weeks encased in hip spica – I’m my own alabaster statue – a doctor attempts to remove it with a cast saw. Blade meets skin, and I try not to imagine what’s happening beneath the plaster. The pain feels like a scald, of heat spreading. I explain this to the orthopaedic doctor, this man I’ve never met, and he does that thing I’m used to male doctors doing: he tells me I’m over-reacting. A rotating blade is slicing into my flesh, but I need to calm down. When my mother starts to cry he demands that she leave the room. Fifteen minutes later I plead with him to stop, and he finally gives up, annoyed.”

So writes Sinéad Gleeson, about her experience of juvenile arthritis and the orthopaedic interventions and emotional trials she had to go through.

Blue Hills and Chalk Bones

“After we published an anonymous account of life in St Ita’s psychiatric institution, a photographer and a doctor were among readers to add to its portrait of life there …”

Garrett Igoe’s poem, Patient:

I pierced your innocent vein with bevel up,
infused a swift sedating rush,
held back healthy curls
from your high brow,
applied the shocking cups.
You convulsed
in that red bricked
sea swept place,
memories eroded, like peeling paint,
decades of wasted afternoons,
one sock black, the other baby blue.
Rattle rattle dum dum dum
your mantra, drowning
shouts from the female side,
charge nurse X doled
out the Major, you told me
you liked the mauve
of Doctor X’s jacket.
On night rounds, I ignored
the scurry of black eyed creatures,
held tight the keys
of twenty four locked wards.
And finally I abandoned you,
left you to go on
showing your tongue
smacking your lips,
rolling your eyes,


The Irish Times >>>

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