NEWS presenter Jackie Bird twice came within hours of death and her family were called to her hospital bedside to say their final goodbyes after she suffered a twisted bowel last month, she has revealed.
Speaking publicly about her illness for the first time this weekend, the BBC’s veteran Hogmanay Show host said she hoped to be back on screen to lead the New Year celebrations at the end of this month. But Bird, 50, told how her recovery has been slow since doctors twice fought to save her life after she collapsed with stomach pains.
She praised her teenage son, Jacob, and neighbour, Angus Macdonald, a surgeon, for getting her to hospital in time and saving her life. “It has been quite a year,” she said. “I certainly didn’t think bringing in 2012 on the Hogmanay Show that it might be my last.”
Bird said the day she became ill had been spent doing publicity shots for the BBC programme, but that evening she had severe stomach pains, which she at first attributed to food poisoning. “After three hours I was screaming in agony and got Jacob to phone NHS24.”
Bird said a doctor visited her at her home and suggested she attend hospital to have her appendix checked, but the presenter believed a painkiller would solve the problem.
“Half an hour later I was crawling about the floor on all floors,” she said. Her son then dialled 999 and she was rushed by ambulance to Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride where surgeons discovered her bowel had become twisted.
“Some of my intestines had died due to lack of blood flow. They had to remove 20cm of my large intestines and 10cm of my small. It was major surgery.”
Doctors told her she had been just three hours from death, and following the surgery she was placed in intensive care and “spent a long time in a morphine haze”, she said.
“It was frightening. I was hallucinating and thought people were out to get me.”
After five days, doctors believed she was well enough to go home, but, within hours of leaving hospital, she took ill again and her husband Robin Weir called their neighbour Mr Macdonald, a colorectal surgeon, for help.
“I was hot and cold all over and my body was bouncing two inches off the mattress with the shakes… [Mr Macdonald] took one look at me, put me in the front seat of his car and drove me to Monklands Hospital where he works.”
There, surgeons discovered the join in her intestines from her previous surgery had split and poison was leaking into her body, she said. Doctors mended the leak, but, when she awoke in the high dependency unit, she was told she had again been within hours of death.
“After the second surgery, I was very frightened. I realised I was not invincible and feared I would never get better. Hearing my family had been told to expect the worst was terrible.”
She has lost a stone in weight and has been unable to play sport since her surgery. But Bird said the support of family, friends, well wishers and an ex-marine who is helping her regain her fitness, has helped her recovery.
She also believes her recent experience will make her a “more sensitive” interviewer.
“Having been so ill I now know how terrified folk must be and I will be asking very different questions in future,” she said.