The real story of a teenager’s battle with tuberculosis

Sometimes we don’t appreciate just how comparatively easy life is for the majority of us.

We expect we can go out and about, walk around with friends and meet them when it’s possible, enjoy liberties and be able to socialise.

But that wasn’t the kind of life that Jean Anderson has lived.

In 1951, when Jean was diagnosed with tuberculosis, she was only 13-years-old. At a time when for most girls the possibilities of life are opening up, Jean was separated from her friends, taken from her home and confined in a sanatorium.

In spite of new so-called wonder drugs and innovative treatment techniques, the battle against TB was often lost.

Many of the friendships Jean made were to end in death, and it was to be four years before her own life-saving operation and her return home.

Jean tells the story of her time in Law Hospital in South Lanarkshire, which has now been demolished, and reveals how in spite of everything, she was grateful to the staff and fellow patients who taught her so much about life and how to live it.

There are plenty of touching moments throughout, of how and and other patients conversed and shared stories – this is very much the story of a young woman growing up in a confined location, unable to experience life with girls her own age, and almost growing up too soon.

The final words at the end of the book mark Jean’s release from hospital, and made me grin – especially the cheeky gentleman advising her to keep her “hand on her haepenny.” Those words were said in front of her father.

Damaged Blooms, by Jean Anderson, published by Arthur H.Stockwell, £9.95.

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