Hannah Barrow has had her Kock pouch since 1972. She was born in 1914, and this was just about the very first Kock pouch operation in the UK, so she was a bit of a guinea pig. But she was so ill it was a risk worth taking.
I was born in 1914 in the small market town of Congleton. The two main streets were full of large and small shops, all owned by local people. We had three cinemas and three dances a week. These days, there is nothing for young people to do.
I started work at 14 years old, as a machinist in one of the many textile mills, mostly producing football and rugby shirts. In the winter, orders were very few, so we worked one week and the following week were on the dole. The week benefit was paid, we were compelled to attend night school to learn shorthand. I don’t know what that did for us!
I was on piece work. You earned your own money. Sometimes we would sit at our machine waiting for work from 7.30am till 6pm and go home without earning a single penny. Still, we had some good times and it was lovely countryside around Congleton.
My husband died 14 years ago and I have one son, Robert. My first husband, Rob’s Dad, died of cancer when Rob was five years old. They were hard times then with no extra allowances. I could not work, as Rob had severe asthma (there were no inhalers then).
In 1970 I discovered I had ulcerative colitis. My doctor sent me to Macclesfield Hospital for tests at the clinic. We only have a small hospital in Congleton. After a few months, I was discharged, without having seen the consultant. I weighed just 5 stone and I never went into what they now call remission. I was very ill.
My GP was wonderful. He asked me if I would go to the London Middlesex Hospital. For the following two weeks I stayed at our local hospital. The only treatment was codeine phosphate (60 mg). I then travelled to Crewe railway station by ambulance, which is just 12 miles from my home. I will not ever forget that rail journey. My husband and sister were with me, and I was met at Euston station by an ambulance.
I stayed at the Middlesex for five months for treatment. You were not told what that was in 1970. I did not improve, so a colostomy was the next step (resting the colon, hoping that the ulcers would heal).
I had a terrible time at home with leaks and blood coming from the colostomy, feeling ill. Early in 1972, I was back again at the Middlesex for another operation. Even in 1972 there was no explanation about the operation. I was just told that I would not use a bag. I had two consultants: Mr Cameron for the pouch and Mr Slack for the rectum (a valve was not used at that early time).
Of course, I was terribly ill and it was a big operation. When I was a little stronger and the pouch had started working, this was the time I had to learn to use the catheter. Sister and the nurses did not know how to do it, so Mr Cameron, doctor and sister took me to the bathroom to learn how to empty the pouch. Thinking back, what surprises me was that I did it without being embarrassed. Probably, I did it more by luck than judgement.
The problem was how to get some sleep without using the catheter, so the doctor came at night to put the catheter in the pouch, packed it round with cotton wool to hold it in and then attached it to a urine bag! Very cosy that was, until I needed to spend a penny.
The nurse would not give me a bedpan, as I was getting up in the daytime, but insisted I got out of bed. I could not wait any longer, so out of bed I got. Calamity! Out came the catheter and what a mess there was on the floor! I can laugh about it now, but I was devastated at the time. Then the nurse shouted at me! I cried all the rest of the night, and the doctor came and packed me up again. I really wanted to go home.
This was Tuesday, and there were no visitors until Saturday. Mr Cameron was on holiday for a few days at home, but the doctor called him in the next morning to talk to me. I can understand how it looked to some of the nurses and patients: it was a first time operation, and I was having a lot of attention. Mr Cameron and the doctors were in every day, to see how I was progressing and of course it created a lot of interest amongst the other medical staff.
After 3 months, I came home again. In the following weeks, there were things to worry me but my doctor sorted it out for me. He was so good to me. He even went to London to ask Mr Cameron all about my operation. I was having a lot of leaks, which upset me. Two years later, I went back to London again for the valve to be fitted and stayed in six weeks.
I had just one checkup afterwards. Instead, Mr Cameron used to talk to me on my sister’s phone. I still had leaks, but did not use a bag. Mr Cameron left the Middlesex later in the year. My wonderful doctor retired 16 years ago. I am still with the same surgery (sorry, medical centre!). It is a two doctor practice, but they don’t know about pouches.
I asked, if anything went wrong with the pouch, which hospital I would be sent to. The lady doctor said Whythanshaw Manchester, which is not too far away from my home. I hope they have done a pouch there, because I feel very strongly about GPs who don’t know anything about pouches, have a patient with one but don’t bother to find out about it.
In the year coming up to 2000, I cannot say that things have improved for me, except for the arrival of the Red Lion Group. Since my doctor retired, I have no personal support. I can’t express in words what a help the Red Lion Group has been to me.
My pouch leaks when the time comes to cook or eat a meal. I could empty it before this time, but when I have eaten it leaks again. That would mean using the catheter 8 or 9 times a day. I take codeine phosphate (15 mg) at bedtime, which keeps me continent during the night. I can’t use them during the day as they make me too solid for the catheter to work.
Now I am nearly 86 years old, I do what is best for myself and use a Surgicare pouch. Although I have a flush stoma, the flange is fine, no leaks underneath it, so I use the catheter 4 or 5 times a day.
I live alone in a sheltered bungalow, and do my own housework and cooking. I can’t walk any distance because I now have osteoporosis in the spine, which is bent. I also have arthritis. My sister takes me to the shops but I push the trolley around and shop for myself. I am able to write, and have a very active mind.
I have never had a car. I have had two falls fracturing both shoulders but I still managed the catheter. The doctor calls me frail, but I don’t know about that!
During my illness, my husband went to work, shopped, did the housework and visited me on Saturdays. Robert sat A levels when he was 17 years old and went to Warwick University, where he stayed for just two weeks before coming home. He went to work in an Accounts office until he was 18, then went to do an honours degree in computing science as a day student at Stafford. I was in hospital most of this time.
Rob worked for ICL as a management consultant, and ten years ago the sales manager and he started a business of their own in Congleton, which has now done very well: they have floated the company and since bought a computing business in the USA, where they also have an office (as well as one in Denmark).
Things seem to have come full circle now. The mills where I used to work are now offices. They have been renovated, and the outsides are the same as they were all those years ago. Rob and Steve’s company have one floor. I have been in the mill and they have kept the stone walls like they were when I worked there back in 1928. Now, of course, it is fashionable!