Thursday 29 February 2024
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NHS 75: Fifty years of volunteering at Nottingham University Hospitals

A woman who had her bowel removed in her twenties has dedicated her life to helping others going through the same thing.

Bow Heath, 80, was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease at the age of 10. The symptoms of this include tummy pain, diarrhoea lasting longer than 4 weeks and bleeding.

She had her bowel removed when she was 27 after pre-cancerous cells were discovered.

“Wearing an ileostomy bag in my twenties was a daunting thought,” recalls Bow.

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Bow Heath

“I wanted to wear miniskirts and look as glamorous as any other young woman – but after suffering for 15 years, I was desperate for a cure, no matter how terrible that cure might be. I wanted to live to see my two young daughters, aged 2 and 5, grow up.”

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After surgery, Bow met another patient who helped her to feel confident again.

“She managed to look feminine and gorgeous with the stoma bag – I was over the moon.”

Bow’s surgeon encouraged her to join City Hospital Stoma Outpatients’ clinic, to share her experience with other younger people going through similar experiences.

And 50 years later, Bow still supports specialist stoma nurses at the clinic, logging in patients as they arrive, sending them through to the nurses and looking after the day-to-day running of the clinic.

“It is always so rewarding to see very worried and frightened patients coming to clinic being reassured by these wonderful nurses in a very informal clinic setting. It is this clinic l came to after my surgery, l still had drips attached to me and it started me on my road to recovery in 1973 and l remain committed to this clinic.”

Jenny Taylor, from Urology, said. “Bow has been a vital member of our Saturday Stoma clinic which has been running for over 50 years. She has a wealth of experience to offer our new members and always has a smile and welcoming face. The clinic runs very smoothly with Bow at the helm. We love her and couldn’t do without her.”

The clinic encourages group discussion, providing the opportunity for people with a stoma to exchange views and ideas on their shared problems and successes.

When asked how it feels to be the longest-serving volunteer at NUH, Bow said:

“It’s amazing. I don’t know where the years have gone. I thought lockdown would’ve been the end of volunteering – but we’ve bounced back. I have no plans to stop anytime soon.”

If you are interested in volunteering please call our application line Tel: 0115 924 9924 Ext: 85318. You can also email

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