A young woman from Thornbury, Bristol, has spoken out about an illness that she says makes her life a misery. Helen Wood (20) still lives at home with her family but, unlike other teenagers, her dream of having a place of her own and living her own life might never come true.
In 2005, at the age of 14, Helen was diagnosed with ME.
Helen said: “Lots of people don't know what a debilitating illness ME can be. It doesn't just go away, you can't wave a magic wand and it's gone. ME is a horrible illness as it stops me doing what I want to do. ME stops me having fun in my life.”.
ME, for which there is no cure, can last for years and symptoms vary from person to person. Symptoms include persistent and extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches, flu-like symptoms, sore throat, swollen glands, concentration and short-term memory problens, sleep difficulties, dizziness and increased sensitivity to light and sound.
ME affects around 250,000 people in the UK anf it can be difficult to diagnose.
Liz Wood, Helen's mum, said: “The doctor who diagnosed Helen thinks she may have had ME since the age of eight or nine. It started with Helen missing school a lot with swollen glands and sore throats. Initially, one of the doctors at the health centre thought she was skiving but I knew as her mother that something wasn't quite right.
“Helen could be off school for up to two weeks at a time and the doctors kept saying it was a virus.”
Due to the debilitating nature of the illness, Helen did not attend school fronm the age of 14. This stopped her getting any GCSEs or A-levels and from forming any kind of social network. She had home education for 18 months having at first three sessions a week, but then ended up just having one session a week. Even then it was too much for her.
Mrs Wood said: ” It is difficult to live with and we all struggle. Sometimes, Helen may look well but what she feels inside is very different. It is the day-to-day things that you take for granted that Helen finds very diffuclt and, as a consequence, she feels very isolated”.
- PHOTO shows Helen and Liz outside Tesco in Thornbury during ME Awareness Week where they collected almost £200 for The ME Association.