Helen’s story

Collapsing due to Adrenal Crisis was nearly fatal for nurse Helen, so discovering a life-saving piece of equipment meant a glimmer of hope. But with no NHS funding available, Helen’s options were limited.

Helen had always wanted to be a nurse and instinctively knew this from a young age.

“It was the only thing I ever wanted to do,” remembers Helen “a dream job and a privilege to do. And I think it still is despite the big challenges being faced at the moment.

Helen qualified as a nurse in 2003 and gained experience working on surgical and medical wards in renal, neurology, gastroenterology and gynaecology, becoming a deputy ward sister and then ward sister. She paused her nursing career to have children and returned in her most recent role as a Triage Nurse working in primary care, triaging acutely and chronically unwell patients, a job she loved.

“For me it’s the ability to make a positive difference to someone’s life,” says Helen “Through showing empathy and compassion, it can make a real difference to a patient’s journey and it’s a privilege to be able to do that for someone.”

In 2019 Helen became unwell herself and eventually had to stop work. After major surgery on her stomach in 2021, she became extremely unwell. It was discovered that she had Adrenal Insufficiency, a life-threatening disease where her body wasn’t producing enough of the hormone cortisol from her adrenal glands. The steroid medication she was dependent on to survive wasn’t being absorbed properly because of her stomach problems.

“I was collapsing with episodes of Adrenal Crisis which can be fatal,” explains Helen “on one occasion my children found me unconscious which was traumatic for them. So I knew I had to discover a different way to take the cortisol medication.”

Helen found a clinic that supported the use of a subcutaneous hydrocortisone pump which could administer the medication into the body, bypassing her stomach. But the NHS wouldn’t fund the £3,000 to buy the pump, only paying for the cortisol medication that goes into it. Helen trialed the pump and it worked amazingly well.

“I knew I was lucky to be alive at that point and out of sheer desperation my husband and I decided that we had to try and find the money to buy the pump, but we knew it would be a struggle” recalls Helen.

Helen searched online for funding help, found Cavell Nurses’ Trust and made an application.

“Like most people, I don’t like asking for handouts and would prefer to try and sort my own problems out, but I felt my situation was becoming desperate.”

As she sent her application to Cavell, Helen’s expectations were low at securing funding but she received a prompt response pledging support. Working alongside another charity, Cavell Nurses’ Trust managed to secure funding to pay for the all-important pump for Helen.

Helen talks about the impact of getting this piece of equipment to keep her alive.

“It’s huge! The impact is immeasurable,” she says “I feel incredibly humbled by the experience. This pump will now sustain my life and improve the quality of it for the near future. The impact of this support on me and all my family has been so positive and uplifting. For the last few years, everything to do with my health has been such bad news, so this support has also restored my faith in life.

“When you’re chronically ill, life can be a constant battle but the kindness I’ve been shown from Cavell Nurses’ Trust has lifted me so much.”

Having her medication given via the pump means Helen has more energy and her condition, though still chronic, is more manageable and safer. She’s learning to adapt and cope with a life-changing medical condition but now doing so with the best possible care using the pump.

“I’m still too unwell to go back to nursing,” says Helen “but I hope one day that I’ll return in some capacity. I do miss it.”

Helen is hugely thankful to the people donating and fundraising to support nurses like her through Cavell Nurses’ Trust.

“I feel I owe all these people a huge debt of gratitude. Someone else’s kindness and appreciation for nurses has had a life-changing impact on me, it’s very humbling.

“Your life can be turned upside down in such a short space of time,” says Helen “If someone had said to me 5 years ago that I would be in this position now, I just wouldn’t have believed them. To know there are people out there willing to support others in this way is incredible.”

Helen has a message for anyone thinking of fundraising or donating to help nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants facing a crisis.

“You could potentially change someone’s life for the better and like mine, you could be instrumental in keeping someone alive to be with their family. Get involved, people will truly appreciate your generosity.”

Contact Cavell Nurses’ Trust