Tony Britton, Fundraising Manager, ME Association.
The Royal Navy has been highly commended for looking after one of its own – by a Navy wife who is about to publish a children's book about her ‘Supercharged Superhero'.
Chief Petty Officer Tom Everson went down with M.E. very quickly after completing an 874-mile bike ride from Land’s End to John O'Groats in July 2017 – weeks after their second daughter Gracie was born.
Tom, who is 36, is now recovering slowly with the help of staff at a navy rehabilitation centre in Plymouth. While he's been away, wife Gemma has been overseeing the production of her book for children like their eldest daughter, five-year-old Georgia, who had a horrible time coping with her dad's illness.
“It was a very dark time as we tried to come to terms with what was happening and learn about the condition. We had very few answers or solutions while Tom was bedbound, unable to move”, said Gemma from her home in Telford.
Tom, a communications specialist who has served in Afghanistan and can speak Pashtu, spends fortnights away at ‘Hasler,' the Help for Heroes rehab centre in Plymouth, where the medical and therapy team is helping him put his life back together.
Gemma says they've been “brilliant”. But her husband expects to be medically discharged from the Royal Navy in a few weeks.
“For six months, we kept saying that Tom was ill, poorly, not well and Georgia's anxiety went through the roof, so we had to change the script”, said Gemma, a primary school teacher.
“We learned to accept that this illness was not going to disappear, and we would potentially be living with this for life. That's when ‘Supercharged Superhero' came about.
“The story is about a superhero daddy who is full of energy and fun. One day his ‘battery' suddenly and unexpectedly fails and will not charge properly. The family try everything to fix it but to no avail. One day the girl realises that her daddy isn't gone – things are just different, and life needs to adjust.
“The writing changed everything for us, and Georgia now uses the language of the story to cope with her dad's condition. It also helped my own anxiety as a parent and carer to realise that, actually, we are OK. We can work through this and we have become strong as a result.”
Gemma laid out the story board for the 32-page rhyming story, which has been illustrated by artist and graphic designer friends.
“Supercharged Superhero” will be published in March next year. No particular illness label or diagnosis has been placed on the main character in order to increase the book’s appeal to the wider chronic illness community.
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