Tony Britton, Fundraising Manager, ME Association.
Sarah Freeman was planning a break from her hectic job with Liverpool City Council by leading an expedition up Ben Nevis during ME Awareness Week – until Covid-19 ruled it out.
But rather than giving up on the idea, she’s simply parked it until May next year when her six-person team will take on Britain’s highest mountain to raise money for the ME Association.
“I’m the type of person who can’t sit down. I always want to be busy,” said Sarah, her Scouser accent as incandescent as a rainbow seeking out that crock of gold.
She now works from home as one of a team of 80 customer services advisers. They’ve been coping with a flood of inquiries from Liverpool businesses and workers desperate to know how they can keep jobs going through the coronavirus crisis.
She used to commute daily from her home in Huyton to the council’s call centre. It was an hour’s travelling each way – hardly ideal for someone diagnosed with M.E. five years ago and sick for longer than that. In March this year, that all changed. The council ordered the team to work from home.
“It’s so much easier now without the travel. I’m enjoying the job much more,”, said 33-year-old Sarah, who has a home-share with her sister Danielle.
“Before I became ill, I was very, very active. I worked full-time, went to the gym once or twice a day and had a second job in Ladbroke’s, working 6-10pm every night. I was never tired.
“Then one day, right out of nowhere, I had this huge attack of adrenaline which didn’t go away. People first thought I was having a breakdown. At one stage, I found I could not even speak, which for me was just inexplicable.
“If I put the dustbin out, that was me for day! Danielle, bless her, had to do everything for me.
“I went to the doctor and was put on anti-depressants, which I stopped taking very quickly. I told my mum I wasn’t anxious or depressed and I shouldn’t be taking them.”
Within a year, she’d been to the ME/CFS clinic in Broadgreen Hospital, Liverpool, and got her diagnosis.
And, although good health couldn’t come wrapped up with it, she now knows pretty much how to manage her symptoms. She’s also remembering the lessons of three relapses – the last one occurring in January 2018 when pain was huge issue.
But she’s decided that – through careful harnessing of her energy levels combined with a little bit of low-impact yoga – nothing, but nothing, is going to keep her away from that mountain.
She and her team will travel to Ben Nevis in a couple of cars and she won’t be driving. After talking to an MEA team member who happens to be an old hand at organising trips to Ben Nevis, they’ve decided not to drive there the morning of the climb but go up the day before and stay overnight. They’ve already booked an Airbnb in Fort William.
In the party will be sister and carer Danielle, school chum Sarah and her husband Dewi, Jenny from university days and ex-flame Alan, who remains a good mate.
There’s already £500 waiting for the ME Association on their fundraising page. “I’d like that to be a little more”, said Sarah. “We’re only sorry we couldn’t do the climb this year. We were so looking forward to it.”
If you would like to speed then on their way, please pop a couple of pounds on their fundraising page.
Editorial note: Sarah has had long discussions with the ME Association about the exercise challenges that she will face while she is climbing Ben Nevis, and fully understands the risks involved. We are pleased that she’s not attempting the climb by herself but will be part of a highly supportive group.
The ME Association
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