From the Bristol Evening Post, 13 May 2011 (story by Emily Koch)
Most people of Helen Wood's age are either at university or holding down a job, spending their spare time socialising and enjoying their early 20s.
But this 21-year-old is too tired, and often too ill, to even think about working – and has been this way for so many years that she could not achieve any GCSEs or other qualifications.
In her mother Liz's word, Helen's life has been “ruined” by the debilitating, mysterious illness known as ME.
It is not known what causes myalgic encephalomyelitis, other wise known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
Neither is there any known cure.
This week is ME Awareness Week and the mother and daughter from Thornbury are doing their all to raise awareness of the devasting illness.
There will be a colelction for Bristol charity Action for ME tomorrow at the Willowbrook Centre in Bradley Stoke, and on June 5 at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway, for the ME Association.
“I just hope that we can give something to these charities which might one day lead to their being a cure for people like my daughter,” said Liz, 52, who is a full-time carer for her daughter.
“People don't really think this illness is serious,
“They think it is yuppie flu, but for people like Helen it just ruins their lives.”
For Helen, the symptoms began when she was aged about eight or nine.
She started to have constantly swollen glands and sore throats and she was off her food.
“She was taking lots of days off school”, said her mum. “But I know she wasn't just skiving.
“The doctors just kept saying it was a virus, but I kept pushing, saying it must be more than that.
“It wasn't until she was 15 that we finally got a diagnosis, when a doctor said it was ME. It was a very difficult few years for us.” Liz says her daughter's symptoms have not got better over the years.
“She is very prone to throat infections and ear problems, and has bad eczema,” she saud,
“She is always very tired, she can't stand bright lights or sunshine. If we go shopping, she is often in a wheelchair.
“She looks wells. She looks as though nothing is wrong. But there is something wrong.”
Because Helen was never well enough to get any qualifications, and could not finish school, the family is unsure what the future weill hold for her.
“It is just a devastating illness,” said Liz. “I long for her to be able to socialise with peopke byt because she missed most of her school life she does not do that. She has no friends and is lonely,
“There are lots of bad days, very few good days. I wish she did not have it but such is life.”
Liz needs help collecting money on June 5 at The Mall, so that she can take Helen home when she gets too tired.
If you can help, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org