Claire Rawlings – Peer Support Champion – North East, Yorks & Humber
My name is Claire Rawlings, I’m 47 years old and married with three children.
Whilst working as a health visitor 4 years ago, I developed a sudden onset of lower back, hip and leg pain. After years of nursing this was not surprising, as I had lifted many patients for the first half of my career. What did surprise me, however, was that I had also developed saddle anesthetiser and incontinence of urine. Also, I was unable to identify when I needed to open my bowels.
I sought help at the staff back clinic at the hospital I worked for. The service was run by physiotherapists and following an assessment, I was told that although I had many red flags for Cauda Equina Syndrome, I was assured that I did not have this and would be called for an urgent MRI scan within the next two weeks. Following my scan two weeks later it was identified that I had a severe case of Cauda Equina Syndrome (caused by spinal stenosis) and I was immediately hurried to theatre. However, this would prove to be too late; as I was left with severe mobility problems, as well as bowel/bladder and sexual dysfunction.
Being unable to work as a nurse and health visitor was devastating, however, since finding the support group I have learned to accept the ‘new’ me. I then volunteered to become a Peer Support Champion. The role is proving to keep me busy, whilst knowing that I can make a difference, in supporting others with the same condition.
Predominantly I am a wheelchair user, although I can take short steps using crutches (indoors). This in itself poses many challenges and I am currently waiting for my first assistance dog.