As part of Disability History Month we have been sharing a number of staff stories to highlight their personal experiences of the support they have received in their personal and professional lives.
This week we caught up with Claire Attwood who works in our Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Division:
"My name is Claire, and I am a Mental Health Senior Peer Support Worker/ Volunteers Coordinator. I also have disabilities, which are a mix of mental and physical experiences. Strangely enough, it was my mental health that pushed me to apply for my first NHS role; I wasn’t looking for work having been out of the world of work for over 5 years.
"One evening at a mental health support group, a member of the Acknowledging Early Signs of Psychosis said to me: ‘We’ve got a job going, why don’t you go for it?’
"I am the least impulsive person as anyone who knows me can vouch for! I applied and got the job as a Support, Time, and Recovery Worker, being given the opportunity to use my personal mental health experiences to help people who were going through similar issues. I felt privileged to gain the trust of people who are at their most vulnerable and helping them to get back on track with their lives.
"The team was renamed EIP (Early Intervention in Psychosis Team) and after a few years I was made a Peer Support Worker. I then moved to the Community Mental Health Team and became a Service User Engagement Coordinator. Then the opportunity to work as a Senior Peer Support Worker came up and I was lucky enough to secure this role. I work within the Integrated Mental Health Hub as part of the Lived Experience Team’s Peer Support Team. This team is amazing; we all have our own lived experience of mental health issues and we support mental health service users and ourselves. That’s my mental health story….
"2 and a half years ago I was diagnosed with a brain tumour called a meningioma (thankfully it was benign). Numerous MRI and CT scans ensued (and continue) and it became clear that I needed a nine-and-a-half-hour operation called a craniotomy whereby part of my skull was removed, the tumour was operated on and I had an implant to replace part of my skull that had some of the tumour in it.
"Unfortunately, it was not possible to remove the tumour in its entirety and I still have part of it in my brain. It is likely that it will reoccur later in life. I underwent another operation as my eyesight in one eye was being affected and my Neurosurgeon tried to save it by doing a two-and-a-half-hour operation called an Endoscopic Optic Nerve Decompression. Sadly, this did not work, and I am now permanently blind in my left eye. This has been so difficult to get my head around and I am not sure I will ever get used to it. I had a course of radiotherapy and this stabilised the tumour.
"The radiotherapy was quite intensive - 5 days a week for 6 weeks. This was in the middle of Covid lockdown, so I had to be a walk-on passenger on the car ferry as there was no Red Jet running. The radiotherapy was tiring so adding extra travel time was a nightmare and I still feel very tired sometimes. I met people going through similar things to me and have remained friends. My colleagues stayed in touch with me, and my line manager kept me updated with team news. Small things like this made the world of difference to me.
"Work has been very helpful to me in managing my disabilities. My colleagues are amazing; I have had so much support from them. My line manager and Occupational Health have also been supportive and helped me with reasonable adjustments. Although nothing can restore my sight, being able to work and being accepted by our organisation, has really helped me to be confident and happy with what I do. I honestly feel that my disabilities and the acknowledgement and support I receive around them, have been embraced and appreciated. Having now worked for the NHS for over 14 years now I have no plans to go anywhere else!"
If you missed our other staff stories we have shared throughout Disability History Month you can read their stories on our website: