Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Islay grandmother wears surgeon’s mistakes like ‘badge of honour’

Picture shows; Margaret McMartin with daughter, Mairi.
"I've made my mark on the world, although the world has made it's mark on me." Supplied by Margaret McMartin.

Islay grandmother Maggie McMartin underwent a surgery that changed her life – but it hasn’t changed her positive attitude.

During surgery to remove a brain tumour, the botched cutting of certain nerves meant Mrs McMartin was left with drooping features, deafness in one ear and the inability to shut one eye.

Although what she endured has undeniably impacted her life, Mrs McMartin is staying positive.

“I’m very proud of who I am and where I am,” she said.

Mrs McMartin is passionate about caring for others, and during her time working as a personal carer, she would spend every Friday baking for the people she cared for.

Maggie refuses to be defined by the surgery

She said: “For the first three years, it totally stole my personality.

“I was the life and soul of the party, the loudest too.

“And then I just shrivelled up.”

Mrs McMartin found it very difficult to spend time with groups of people, as the surgery had caused deafness in one of her ears.

Not being able to hear her family and friends took a toll on the mother of three.

“When we were in company sometimes, my husband David could see that I’d just switch off because I couldn’t follow conversations.”

Despite these struggles, Mrs McMartin is always able to look on the brighter side.

Picture shows; Margaret McMartin alongside others fundraising.
Mrs McMartin alongside others fundraising for Brain Tumour Research on Wear A Hat day. Supplied by Margaret McMartin

She laughed: “I’m totally deaf on the left side, but it has its advantages.

“We live next door to a pub and it can get quite rowdy through the night at weekends.

“If I just turn over in bed, then I can’t hear anything at all – it’s great.”

Hardest times

The most “horrible” times for Mrs McMartin included when she was completing her nursing training.

“If I was in a ward, and someone shouted ‘nurse’, I wouldn’t be able to tell where it was coming from.

“I was known as the ‘glaikit nurse’.”

Mrs McMartin experienced prejudice and was reported for “sleeping” during a conference, when in reality it was simply the way her left eye looked when it “closed down”.

Another nickname Mrs McMartin had to endure was during her time working at Addiewell Prison.

“It really upset me because I was known as ‘nurse Quasimodo’.”

Now Mrs McMartin can laugh about the struggles she went through, but that wasn’t always the case.

“At first, it wasn’t funny.

“I still miss my face, my smile, having both eyes beaming.

“People say when I’m talking and animated, they don’t notice it so much.

“But when I catch myself in the mirror, it still upsets me.

“Even now at 69 and I’m an old lady, I miss my smile.”

Turning point

Mrs McMartin didn’t feel comfortable having photos taken for some time after the surgery.

This meant she wasn’t in any photos at the wedding of her eldest daughter, Mairi.

“After my operation, I went and found the biggest brimmed hat to wear to the wedding, so I could hide my face,” she said.

At her second daughter’s wedding, Mrs McMartin refused photos again.

“A couple of days after, when all the photographs came out, I sat there crying.

“There was Fiona with her godmother, Fiona with her friends’ mothers – and not Fiona with her mother.

“I had a talk with myself and decided this isn’t right.

“When I’m not here and they look back on their lives, there will be no photographic memory of me.”

Margaret McMartin enjoying herself whilst walking the West Highland Way in 2015. Supplied by Margaret McMartin

Mrs McMartin has since had lots of photos taken, including a photoshoot for her daughter’s thirtieth birthday which helped renew her confidence.

Feels ‘let down’

A Disclosure documentary in 2018 exposed details of Muftah Salem Eljamel’s “negligence”, who operated on Mrs McMartin.

She says she is no longer upset, but rather very angry with the surgeon whose negligence caused her facial defects.

“I will never forgive Mr Eljamel.

“I’m really angry with Ninewells Hospital and NHS Tayside for allowing the man to walk away from this.”

BBC Scotland’s Harmed by My Surgeon revealed that the Mr Eljamel had been “accused of harming dozens of patients.”

Mrs McMartin has never asked for nor received compensation.

Margaret McMartin in the airport heading to Brussels.
In March, 2012, when travelling to visit her daughter, Mairi, in Brussels, Mrs McMartin took part in her first Wear A Hat day. “I raised around £350 just for wearing my hat.” Supplied by Margaret McMartin

However, the surgeon himself has been ordered to pay one patient £2.8million in compensation. 

After a difficult childhood, including running away from home aged 16 with only £4 in her pocket, Mrs McMartin is proud of how far she has come – despite all the struggles in her life.

“Here I am, 60 years later, owning my own house in Islay. I have three fabulous children with big hearts as well as fabulous grandchildren.”

“I’ve made my mark on the world, although the world has made its mark on me.”

“How have I made it to this point? I don’t know.

“My daughter says it’s because I’m a ‘badass’.”

Where is she now?

Margaret and her husband, David, spent their honeymoon on Islay back in 1973.

“With three kids, a dog and a mortgage, we could never afford to come back.”

But after a holiday in Islay years later, they couldn’t stay away.

“We were sitting in the local hotel and thought: why don’t we just move here?”

Known as “granny Islay” by her grandson, Fynn, Mrs McMartin is delighted to finally relax in the peace and quiet of their favourite island.

“We have to grow old somewhere and I want to grow old in Islay.”

Mrs McMartin said that getting involved in Brain Tumour Research’s Wear A Hat Day has helped her “regain her personality”.

Fundraising since March 2012, Mrs McMartin has raised more than £7,000 in total for Brain Tumour Research.

Donate to Margaret McMartin’s JustGiving page here.