Crippling debt and a coma at Christmas - a retired Nurse's battle to a better life.
After 30 years of dedicated service as a nurse and midwife, Caroline’s ill health meant she became jobless, homeless and facing crippling debt.
Caroline, now 57, moved to the UK in 2002 from Botswana after being recruited for a job nursing physically disabled people. She said farewell to her loving husband and two daughters in Africa to start her new opportunity, settling into a furnished flat organised by her new employer.
Caroline gradually developed arthritis, first in her hip, and then in her knee, ankles, wrists and right shoulder. She fell very ill, with pneumonia turning to chronic pulmonary obstructive disease which has left her with only one fully functioning lung. She developed high blood pressure and struggled on through osteoporosis and fibromyalgia only to be diagnosed with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This was just too much for Caroline.
“At Christmas time I was admitted to hospital, falling into a coma and was there for weeks. I nearly lost my limbs. I was so terrified. Terrified. I was discharged in a wheelchair, miserable, depressed and so, so isolated.” says Caroline, “and my diabetes was brought on by my poor diet, I couldn’t afford to live well.”
Due to her deteriorating health, Caroline couldn’t work so her contract was terminated. She lost her home.
“This was the beginning of my misery. I found sheltered housing. It had no furniture, carpet or curtains to guard against the cold. But it was a roof over my head for the winter. With the little money I had I decided to get a cooker rather than a fridge as I couldn’t afford fresh food.
“A neighbour offered me a double bed. I had no telephone so was isolated from my family, from the world around me. I didn’t realise that having to leave my job would mean I lost friends and colleagues too. The loneliness was hard to bear.”
At this time Caroline regularly walked the 4 mile round trip to her hospital appointments, battling with her deteriorating mobility when she couldn’t afford the bus fare.
“My only connection to the world was a free newspaper. Despite living without radio and TV the bills came flooding in and I was threatened with court every week. I locked myself inside, thinking every slight movement outside was a creditor. I regretted the day I was born. I wanted to go back to my homeland but it was impossible - I had no money.”
“I cried and cried. Tears which could fill a cup.”
Luckily, Caroline turned to Cavell Nurses’ Trust and we were able to help.
“The first wave of help carpeted my flat, and helped me with a proper kitchen. A weekly grant of £20 meant I could get a bus to hospital, visit church and become part of the world again.” says Caroline.
Caroline’s poor health meant she became eligible for government benefits which we were also able to help her obtain. As her mobility worsened, the bus trips became more difficult and taxis were expensive. So Cavell Nurses’ Trust were able to help again.
“I was frightened of becoming isolated again so I was delighted to get a car through a subsidised scheme. It’s modified to be used by my hands.”
We funded Caroline’s driving lessons and she took her test earlier this year. She was over the moon when she passed and is delighted that she is now fully independent.
“It’s easy to give, but I found it so hard to ask for help. It’s easy to nurse but not so easy to be nursed.”
“I’d ask people to support the work of Cavell Nurses’ Trust in any way they can. And if you are a Nurse, Midwife or Healthcare Assistant, even if you’re a student or are retired, please find the strength to ask for help.”
“Everybody deserves to live better”
Such is Caroline’s generous nature, she has now set up a regular donation to Cavell Nurses’ Trust because she wants someone else to benefit.