I have been a carer for most of my life. I was born into a household in crisis. On the day I was born, Father was recovering in hospital from TB, my eldest brother of 2 fighting for his life with TB Meningitis. Father recovered, but we had to move home as our lovely cottage in the Quantock village of Holford, Somerset had to be fumigated.
Mother struggled for the next 5 years with the help of her little helper, me, to keep the now severely mentally handicapped brother at home. One of my first memories at age 3, is of bathing my brother with turds floating in the water where he had messed himself. After our youngest sister was born in 1972 Mother made the painful decision that that she could not cope with looking after three children under the age of six, plus l that was so ill. Eldest brother was taken into specialist care. The birth of her forth child was very complicated, she died on the delivery table at one point and soon after returning home it was obvious that she was having some sort of mental breakdown, the stress of seeing her eldest son depart from the house and the birth took its toll. Mother then spent most of my childhood in and out of mental hospitals, had inhumane amounts of ECT treatment , had her not inconsiderable intellect dulled by various psychedelic colourfully named drugs.This left me and my father to cope at home with the other two kids. I learnt how to cook from a very early age, wash, clean and all the other household stuff for the family to get by, while Dad concentrated on bringing home the family income such as it was.By the way just because eldest brother was not at home he was not forgotten and had regular visits from all of us, still a big part of our dysfunctional family.
As I entered my late teens I found the duties and expectations at home suffocating so left home at 17 to save my own sanity. I spent the next 20 years of my life building up a portfolio of educational certificates and work experience. When I worked it was in safety, project & engineering management. The highlight of which, 2004-06 reconstruction work in war torn Iraq, caring on another scale all together.
June 2007, over the space of a few terrible days mine and my husband’s lives were torn to shreds, he became ill with a Staph infection that left him partially tetraplegic. Concurrently finding cancer on his right kidney. The remainder of that year was spent in various hospitals, me living like a hobo and him fighting for his life.
2008 we decide to try and resume our plans heading off to Australia, but by May 2009, a pressure sore caused by a spider bite and Hubby’s deteriorating health mean that we have to make the hard decision to return to the UK.
Back in the UK, homeless, penny-less and somewhat surprised that looking after a Tetraplegic in a hotel is not considered an urgent situation. The real battles begin with a UK health system that is not geared up to help when you don’t neatly fit into one of their boxes. Hubby couldn’t be just a run of the mill tetraplegic he had to have complications with taking oral medications, none helping with his progressive, aggressive, spasticity and spasms.
Even though Hubby qualified for fully funded continuous care agency provision in October 2009, I am now looking after Hubby 24/7 day in day out. He does not sleep at night and therefore neither do I. His inability to tolerate hoist use, constant physio demands, forcibly straightening his limbs to relieve the pain of muscles that seem to be trying to rip his body apart mean looking after him is a very physical job.
I became so desperate at no one listening or taking action regarding our plight that in July 2010 I take the drastic action of going on a hunger strike, which got national media coverage and the local PCT did start to help a little. Since then we have had sporadic carer coverage, but most of the time I am still my husband’s 24/7 carer, still here, battling a system that does not want to listen or act to ease both our suffering.
During this time being housebound I have kept sane by developing my social media skills, trying to get help for myself but also trying to support others in similar situations.
As I write this synopsis we await admission to hospital on the 17th October for Hubby to have a vital life changing operation. I desperately wait a decision from the local PCT regarding our new named care agency so that I can go visit my father who I have learned is dying of terminal cancer, this will be his last Christmas with us.
If it were not for the love , sense of team work, my husband and I have developed during this time, I would not still be here battling on against a system that does not really care about its carers.