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Emotionally she was back at her lowest

Posted on 28 September 2010

Emotionally, she was back at her lowest.Despite this, Catherine was learning, little by little, how to rebuild her shattered life. He was obviously doing very well for himself financially, and he was disarmingly informal.” But the operation she underwent was a failure, and the fall from high hopes to utter despair and disillusionment was steep. “Leather sofas and old-fashioned armchairs completed the impression that one was in the tasteful sitting room of a well-off family.. Dr Bloom was a pleasant-looking man in his forties… Now Catherine began to dream of throwing away her crutches, regaining the full use of her legs.

She and Picci flew to New York, and Manhattan proceeded to seduce her as only Manhattan can.”The floor was made of parquet, with a few Persian rugs scattered around,” she writes of the specialist’s office. When Catherine and Picci decided to push for big damages from Pan Am, the lawyers became overtly hostile.The assault on Pan Am worked to the extent that the company agreed to pay the costs of medical treatment in the United States. But the Italian lawyers to whom they took their case, one of them an aerospace specialist, were discouragingly modest in their aims. The failure of the plane’s auxiliary power unit in the absence of the flight engineer could have been the trigger for the massacre that followed. Catherine Hill lost not only her buttock, but her right to run her own life. Her book details her extended experience of powerlessness, and her increasing horror – and how she ultimately, and very effectively, rose up in revolt.With the support of Picci, she decided that there might be grounds for suing the airline, Pan Am, whose flight crew had fled the aircraft, leaving the passengers at the hijackers’ mercy. Dancing in the Sea is a vivid account of what it is like to be treated as an object by people who are just doing their jobs.

It is almost Dickensian in its horrors.But the NHS was only the first institution to deal with her simply as a creature to be serviced as long as necessary and then discharged as soon as possible. This, too, proved an emotional as well as a physical trial: her account of how her treatment at the (unnamed) London hospital, filthy and uncaring, contrived to drive her even more miserably inside herself is enough to shame any British person. Once she was out of immediate danger, she was sent back to Britain to have her pelvis rebuilt under the NHS. Hers is the story of a long, hard struggle, not just for physical recovery but to regain her self-esteem.Her very survival was in doubt for weeks after the blast, as she battled the infections in her wound. Because I didn’t know – where do you go, who do you turn to, who do you speak to? You’re in a place that doesn’t belong to you…”That was years ago.

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