Diane’s story

As the Coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, Diane realised that having Addison’s disease would make it too risky for her to continue frontline nursing. But a few weeks off work shielding turned into five and a half months with no work and no income. She turned to Cavell Nurses’ Trust for help.

It was Diane’s first boyfriend who inspired her to become a nurse. When they met he had just qualified as a psychiatric nurse.

“He was the person who made me think about doing nursing as a career,” remembers Diane “I hadn’t considered nursing before meeting him but I thought it was a very worthy profession to be in.”

Diane qualified in 1985 and worked in many areas like operating theatres, recovery wards, intensive care, neuro-surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery wards.

“I love nursing,” says Diane “I love meeting people and helping people, I’m quite a sensitive and compassionate person so becoming a nurse really seemed a good fit for me.”

In 2000, Diane had to stop work due to chronic fatigue. She was working long shifts on a very busy ward and was having to take more and more time off to recuperate.

“It would take me 3 days to recover from doing one shift,” remembers Diane “so in the end I had to be signed off on long term sickness.”

Diane got married and a few years later gave birth to her son but her health didn’t improve. Her chronic fatigue continued year after year but her GP was dismissive of her symptoms and unable to tell her what was wrong. After doing her own research, Diane sought advice elsewhere from a specialist in chronic fatigue.

“She looked at my test results and said I was hypothyroid. Eventually, I managed to find a different GP who would take my symptoms seriously and I started getting treatment. In the end, I was diagnosed with Addison’s disease.” Addison’s disease is where the adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys, do not produce enough hormones to keep the body active.

After 10 years of searching for an answer, Diane was finally able to get the right treatment for her condition which she can now manage with medication.

“I felt I got my life back. Before I was diagnosed, I never thought I’d nurse again, I thought that part of my life was over. I was so glad to return!”

Diane’s nursing qualification had lapsed so she decided she would return to nursing as a healthcare assistant (HCA) at her local community hospital.

“I’m happy now working as an HCA doing short 6 hour shifts, 2 or 3 times a week,” says Diane “This is what I can manage at the moment. But just being able to get back to nursing has been amazing, I never thought it would happen.”

When the Coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, Diane sought advice from her GP who recommended that she stay at home. Her Addison’s disease compromised her immune system so the risk to her health was too great to continue nursing.

Diane is a Bank HCA. Bank staff are a pool of people an employer can call on as and when work becomes available which suits Diane doing her 2 or 3 shifts a week.

“I’m classed as a temporary worker,” explains Diane “and my employer said I wasn’t entitled to their occupational sick pay scheme, but that I would get statutory sick pay from them paid by the government.”

However, the weeks passed and no money arrived in her account. She contacted her employer but they didn’t seem to know what was going on amidst the panic of the unfolding pandemic. Diane’s wage supported the family finances so with very little household income, they struggled to pay essential bills like the finance deal on their motorhome and the payments quickly became a burden.

“And to make things worse, our cooker broke!” says Diane “We couldn’t afford a new one or to get it repaired. So we’ve spent the last few months having to adapt to cooking everything on a hob.

“On top of this, I felt anxious and wondered if I was being fairly treated by my employer with all the problems around getting sick pay. I didn’t know if the situation was going to end, it was quite stressful.”

Diane contacted Cavell Nurses’ Trust and we quickly got funds to her to purchase a replacement cooker and to settle unpaid bills.

“When I got the confirmation from Cavell, I cried!” remembers Diane “It was such a relief and a lovely thing to happen. Such a blessing. We’ve been able to buy a new cooker which is fantastic and the money left over is there to pay outstanding bills. We’ve also managed to sell the motorhome so that financial burden is gone too.”

Diane never did receive any sick pay, and in all she was off work for five and a half months. She has recently returned to her healthcare assistant role.

“I’ve really missed it. I’m not feeling nervous about returning to work even though Covid hasn’t gone away, as I’m confident that my workplace is taking all the necessary precautions. I really want to fit back in and be part of a nursing team again.”

Diane is grateful for the support she received from Cavell Nurses’ Trust.

“I didn’t know the charity existed so I was so relieved to discover it,” says Diane “I feel really looked after and supported by Cavell Nurses’ Trust. It’s fantastic to know there are people out there supporting the charity so I would say to anyone thinking of doing something to help – definitely donate or fundraise, whichever you are able to do.”