I was told that I had picked up “a funky virus on your travels.” Professor Solomon, Consultant Neurologist, said the virus had come and gone quickly and was either chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) or haemorrhagic dengue. At 47 I thought my career was over. I had a young family, twins of 13 and a nine year-old and my wife, a part-time health visitor.
My family motto is “pick yourself up.” I had not reckoned upon having to live with permanent neuropathic pain after a trip to Sri Lanka in December 2013 where I was validating a degree programme. UCLan has afforded me the opportunity to travel widely: Canada; Norway; Sri Lanka and Finland. I am Britain’s 21st boy midwife and was able to meet the first boy midwife at a conference I went to through work in Slovenia.
Throughout my recovery and return to work all my colleagues have been supportive, encouraging, pragmatic and kind. The senior team: Nigel Harrison – Executive Dean; Karen Wright – Head of School; and Janette Grey – Director Academic Development; could not have been more helpful. Nigel supported me through the Occupational Health process; Karen, my research buddy and PhD mentor kept in close contact when I was ill and on my return would “pop” down to see all was OK; Janette and I have worked together on fitness to practice investigations and training.
My story started with the trip to Sri Lanka in December 2013, January 2014 saw me in hospital with a haemorrhage in my leg and by March I was unable to walk. I returned to work in September 2014 and found life increasingly difficult. In January 2015 I was deemed suitable for a spinal cord stimulator and was referred to the Walton pain management program soon afterwards. In March 2015 Occupational Health suggested I needed an extended period of time away from work to recover. June 2015 saw me in crisis, unable to move from my bed and full of opiates to relieve the pain. These were dark days indeed for me. I thought my career was over and that all the effort I had expended on my PhD had been thrown to the wind. I returned to work in March 2016 and I found that my bedrock and focus is in training nurses, going back to basics and instilling an attitude of kindness and care in fresh young minds.
I don’t give up - this is the third time I have come back from life-threatening illnesses: a coarctation of the aorta; a traumatic shoulder injury as a result of a car accident and now a tropical virus. I had three goals for my recovery, to be able to: a) drive; b) read and process information; c) to restart my PhD, all of which I can now do. It is all about life, family and improving the care of patients. UCLan gave me back my self-respect, and hence my life. I can’t thank them enough.