Ann can’t recall the first time her was ex-husband was violent.
But she’ll never forget the final time. He pinned her to the ground in the loungeroom and tried to gouge her eyes out with a silver spoon.
It took 10 years and countless broken bones for Ann to summon the nerve to leave.
She was determined to stick in the marriage for her children, walking out only when her youngest son had finally become a teenager.
On that life changing day, as her then husband was in the toilet, she grabbed a change of clothes, precious photos of her three boys, and raced out the front door.
“I just ran as fast as my feet could carry me,” says Ann, a grandmother-of-three.
“I was feeling everything you could possibly feel.
“It got to the point when I thought the only way I was leaving was in a box.”
Ann has been a fixture around Footscray hospital for nearly two decades, a recognisable face as a lollipop lady at St John’s and Footscray North primary schools, and more than a decade as a worker at the now-defunct ammunitions factory.
But few would have heard the 75-year-old’s story – she’s not one to divulge personal affairs.
“I’m not one of them people to open up about things, but I have recently started talking more than usual,” she says.
“When he used to knock me around, I went to work with black eyes. Everybody saw it anyway.
“It was pretty bad, I looked like I had been in the ring with Muhammed Ali some days. There were bruises everywhere and my face was purple and yellow, but I just managed it on my own.”
The violence escalated through the years, which Ann believes was linked to his growing marijuana habit.
She says the day he broke her ribs was the only time she sought medical treatment. He would usually flare up after too much to drink, or when he was high.
“I wasn’t a happy person but you just got to keep carrying on for the kids’ sake, I wasn’t going to leave while they were small,” she says.
“I grew up without a dad, mum left my father when I was a baby.”
Her ex-husband died from heart disease after they divorced in the mid-80s, and she is remarried to a man “with a big heart”.
She says life has been much better since.
“I’ve put that part of my life out of my life,” she says.
Despite working just footsteps from Footscray Hospital, she’s only been through its doors twice.
First, when she gave birth to her second son Bruce in 1967.
And the second time just one year ago, after she tripped over at a service station and required a hip replacement.
“The nurses and doctors were very good, but I didn’t like the bed or the food,” she says.
The Greatest Need Project is an online story-sharing website with two major goals – to help patients facing significant hardship and disadvantage, and to facilitate research at Western Health.
As a patient, Ann is sharing her story in a bid to help those who need it most.
By making a donation on Ann’s behalf – and sharing her story on social media – you are making a difference too. Thank you.