Learning to adapt
From a very young age, Michelle knew she wanted to heal and to help other people. After qualifying as a nurse in 2001 she has spent her career working in the community as a Staff Nurse, School Nurse and a Paediatric Community Nurse. In her current role as a Paediatric Diabetes Nurse she runs clinics for children and their parents giving them advice, reviewing their medication and discussing diabetes care plans. It’s a job she really loves.
“I always knew I wanted to be a nurse and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Michelle’s always had bags of energy, running 10km distances every now and then and having two teenage boys to keep her busy, but in the Spring of 2015 she started to feel unwell.
She suffered a number of viruses but didn’t think anything of it and kept up her busy work and life schedule. However, in April 2015 she collapsed at work and was rushed to A&E.
She was suffering from balance problems, migraines and overwhelming fatigue which wouldn’t go away and it took another four months before her diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) was confirmed. Michelle describes what it felt like,
“My limbs felt like they were solid lumps of lead and just raising my arms up to dry my hair left me completely exhausted. I had constant pain in all my joints, it felt like I had full blown flu… but all the time.”
Once her diagnosis of CFS was confirmed, Michelle was actually relieved as it meant that something was definitely wrong with her and it wasn’t “all in her head” as some people had suggested. During the seven months she was off work, she received amazing support from her CFS team, encouraging her to manage her lifestyle, pace herself and understand the mental and physical effects of everyday activities on her condition.
In November 2015 Michelle returned to work thinking she was better, but it became clear very quickly that it was too soon. She ended up in A&E again with a kidney infection and severe migraines. To compound this, she went down to half pay in December which caused additional stress and anxiety, aggravating her situation.
“I thought I was getting better, coping with the illness, but things just got worse for me.”
Michelle was able to get a grant from the Queen’s Nursing Institute to help pay her bills and they put her in contact with Cavell Nurses’ Trust who were also able to help, providing support with her mortgage payments.
“I found it so hard and demoralising to be asking for help but the whole process was handled so sensitively. I cannot express my thanks enough for this help. I have been able to concentrate on recovering and getting back to work.”
Michelle has now managed to successfully return to work and is learning to adapt and pace herself doing shorter shifts. She realises that she will have to live with her condition but is determined to continue to do the job she loves.
“The knowledge that Cavell Nurses’ Trust is there for nurses like me, should we ever need them, is amazingly reassuring.”