I have been qualified as a registered nurse since 1979. Since then I’ve worked in the community and acute trusts in a variety of specialisms including A & E for many years at Basildon and Southend Hospitals and Rapid Response in the community.
In 2005 I was working at Southend Hospital as a Clinical Site Manager and was asked to take on the role of Lead Nurse Medicine. I was at that time studying for my Master’s in gerontology (study of older people) and project managing a bed predictor tool for the hospital. I had a twenty thousand word thesis to undertake using two focus groups and age profiling and I was coming up to my final exam which was Biology of Ageing (my favourite subject!!)
I went in to the exam and.. In contrast to my previous exam (research methods ) where I had answered MORE questions than were required in the time. .. I couldn’t think what to write and after an agonising three hours felt that I had probably failed my final exam. Two days later I developed pins and needles in my fingers. .. this extended in to my arm. I was scheduled for an urgent MRI and the results were strongly suggestive of MS. This remarkably came as a bit of a surprise to me !!
I never realised until then how excruciating nerve pain could be. It was rather like I would imagine having razor wire pulled through your nervous system. There was vast involvement in my neck (which was red and had a strange urticaria type rash to it) and in my brain. The pain was indescribable but child birth seemed like a breeze in comparison. This lasted for several days and I popped pills in an effort to stave off the pain, nothing was working !!
Eventually after about a week the pain started to subside I hadn’t even seen my neurologist then, a consultant in A & E had booked the MRI . When I did see him, further tests were undertaken and a tentative diagnosis given (you need more than one episode for diagnosis). I needed two months off work but in that time I rested and the feeling came back in my arm. With ‘minor’ adjustments at work (the consultant had suggested I step out of a stressful work role! .. difficult in nursing) I was seconded elsewhere to work with the discharge team.
At the end of the six months I returned to the clinical site team, no longer doing the Lead Nurse but still trying to compete my thesis in a year extension that I was granted and the pins and needles began again. This time on the left side. A further couple of months sickness and … serious sickness reviews !
Something had to change I told myself…. and that is when I began looking at alternatives. I studied complementary therapies, and at this time my beloved Father died. I had become increasingly interested in end of life care and the use of therapies to assist those who were dying. My Father who had always been very fearful of death was the first person I gave Reiki to and he became instantly calm and at peace.
I was offered a position with Fairhavens Hospice @ Home and I was also offered at this time the opportunity to undergo a clinical trial for MS. Until now I had dabbled with MS medications for about six weeks a medication called Capoxone but, it was daily injections and my body clearly didn’t like them as I ended up covered in wheals which looked like I had some strange type of pox.
I looked at the research on the trial and it was a type of chemotherapy. And i thought about this long and hard. And .. decided that was not the route I wished to journey down. The lovely MS Nurse specialist girls said well Melanie why don’t you have the MRI scan anyway to see where you are at with the disease process. That seemed sensible. So I did. What the scan showed was that all the lesions that were in my neck (and there were many) had gone… and all that remained were a few inactive lesions on my brain.
What had changed ?!?
I had changed…
I no longer was driven by work but had begun to look at other ways of working and what was truly important. Money was no longer important, necessary, but not everything. So I downgraded my pay scale and began doing something that I loved. I worked for Hospice @ Home and then was fortunate to have the opportunity to become a nurse specialist in lymphoedema. I have since worked at several Hospices as a complementary therapist and specialist nurse. I’ve also worked alongside COPES the gynae cancer support group at Southend since 2007 offering therapies on a voluntary basis.
Since that time I have continued to extend my knowledge of complementary ‘healing’ modalities and I now work privately as a ‘soul midwife’. I receive referrals for gentle end of life care where folk have been told that medical treatments are no longer viable. I have undertaken bereavement training and found that complementary therapies have an important place in helping the bereaved and amongst my many roles I have also worked at a funeral directors for a few months.
Next week I am looking forward to completing my funeral celebrancy course….. which I am doing because one of my patients had asked me if I would take her funeral…