2:30pm, Thursday 17th May
When hit by a traumatic experience, it’s easy to put on the blinkers and focus completely on oneself. Having spent six months recovering physically and emotionally in a rehab unit it is now time to take those blinkers off. Looking around the rehab unit I am surrounded by unique cases. Yes, the majority are affected by strokes or MS, but each patient lives a life filled with different challenges, different responsibilities, different needs and different ambitions.
For this entry I have decided to interview my fellow patient and friend, Sharon, 46.
At the age of 19, Sharon was working as a catering manager when she was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). The diagnosis, like for many others sent her into months of asking the question, Why me? And what have I done to deserve this? ‘But’, she says in the interview. ‘You can sit there thinking “poor me”, getting nowhere, or you can fight your way out of the dark corner. ‘I have friends in much worse situations than me’.
Working 10-hour shifts without sitting down is hard at the best of times. When you have MS, it can become impossible. Sharon was forced to give up full-time work at the age of 21, thus ending the career that she was priding herself upon. Her lifestyle was adapted to fit around managing her MS and although she can still work cleaning and housekeeping jobs, it depends on how able she is on the day.
There are two types of MS, ‘type one’ allows the patient to fully recover from each relapse. Unfortunately, Sharon has ‘type two’ MS, meaning that she will never fully recover to where she was pre-relapse for each relapse she has. Despite how tough life with MS can be, Sharon feels there are some positives to come out of it. For example, Sharon feels that she keeps better friends and has made better choices as a result.
Pre MS, Sharon was keen on having a family but she never met the right man. However, as one door closes another door opens. By not having any major responsibilities, Sharon was able to complete a tandem parachute jump last year. Next, she hopes to do a tandem glide. I guess you could say she’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie.
For anyone in such a position, having someone who is stable and supportive is crucial. For Sharon this amazing person is her mother. Her mum works to provide for the pair of them and acts as her ‘emotional rock’. As Sharon answers my questions about her mum I see tears welling up. She admits that ‘I couldn’t do what I do without her’ and we leave it at that.
Back in November, Sharon became very ill. After spending six hours on the loo unable to get up, she made a final effort to stand, but instead of standing, collapsed on the floor and passed out. Returning from work, her mother found her and instantly called 999. The culprit was an ulcer discovered in her lower bowel. She was kept bed-bound attached to feeding tubes for several weeks, a time she described as unbearable. In January she arrived in the rehab unit unable to stand, this is when I met her.
Sharon sits in front of me today proud. Proud for what she has achieved over the last six months, proud that she can now transfer into a car and proud that she is once again able to walk short distances. And she should be proud. When she arrived in the unit she was living in the fear of being told that she couldn’t be helped and would lose her bed in the unit as a result, thus leaving her confined to ceiling hoists and electric chairs for the rest of her life.
After the interview I asked if there is song that has helped her through the tough times. On the spot she was unable to give a name but found me later in the day to let me know that her song was “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes” by Minus 8, Virag. She also told me that what keeps her going the most are her friends and family.
To round off she confirmed that it is quality of life, not quantity of life that she values most of all.