My name is Helen, I am 28 years old and I am a children’s nurse, working on a busy hospital assessment unit. At the beginning of this year, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which is a long-term condition, which causes me to have pain all over my body. It causes a wide range of symptoms most notably a high sensitivity to pain and fatigue. Lack of sleep and stress are just two of the exacerbating factors. I also have hypermobility and Raynaud’s (a circulatory problem) which can also cause me pain and mobility problems.
At the time that I was diagnosed I would have occasional flare-ups but I could get back to my normal routine within a day or so with minimal pain. I did not understand the full significance of the diagnosis at this point. As a nurse and work shifts, which are 12.5 hours long, and at the time of my diagnosis I was working up to 50 hours a week. In May 2016 I had to call in sick for a flare-up, little did I know how bad a flare-up it would turn out to be. Before the end of that day, I was in tears due to the pain and had to crawl up my stairs to bed. The following day I was still in pain and felt utterly drained, this continued through the rest of the week. Not only had I been off from work I also missed a planned trip to visit my sister. It was at this point that I realised how much this condition could affect my life. I was off sick from work for a further 2 months as I attempted to strengthen myself, improve my stamina, and reduce my pain levels. I found that the physio exercises I had from before the flare were too much for my body to cope with and had to reduce the amount I did and had to manage my day-to-day tasks so as not to exacerbate my pain and fatigue. Discussing my problems with my physiotherapist, we worked out a management plan that involved tailoring my routines to how I felt on the day. She also suggested I contacted St George’s Community Hydrotherapy Pool to allow me to strengthen my core muscles. I had tried to go swimming in a public swimming pool, but the pool was too cold and set off my Raynaud’s.
My first visit was a public physiotherapy session everyone was very welcoming and friendly. As I took the gentle steps into the pool the warmth washed over me, it felt wonderful. I met the physiotherapist and was given a number of exercises. I felt tired after this session but was determined to get back to work as soon as possible so I booked myself in for two sessions a week at the pool.
My first ‘public’ session came and I was eager to get in the warm water. 30 minutes later, I had completed the exercises I was given but was very tired. After a month of going to the sessions, I felt much stronger and was feeling less tired after sessions. I attended another physiotherapy session at the pool, which gave me some new exercises to try. I continued to go twice a week and a month later, I felt strong enough to start back at work. Work was very helpful at creating a phased return to ensure I was ready to go back. I am now back at work on a part-time contract but continuing on 12.5 hour shifts.
I am very grateful to all the staff at St George’s Hydrotherapy for working hard to create such a welcoming and supportive environment, which has helped me get back to work. I still go to St George’s every 1-2 weeks and continue to strengthen myself. It is not only the staff but also the users, which make St George’s such a pleasant environment to visit. I know that my regular visits to St George’s Hydrotherapy Pool are helping me manage my fibromyalgia and allowing me to continue working at the hospital.