Sunday, 9 October 2011


Hello and welcome to my newest blog!

Fibro Not Fiction is my blog describing how someone with disabilities copes with the welfare reforms happening within the UK at the moment and how this effects their existing health issues.

I have 3 different disabilities which I developed at far different points of my life. I was advised to by the Job Centre Plus in my initial contact about the re-assessment to describe all existing disabilities and health problems on the form and how it effects me day to day.

So the form arrived and I explained my original diagnosis of RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and the unexpected diagnosis a year later by the Rheumatology Clinic at the hospital of FMS/FM (Fibromyalgia) which caused me to become too ill to work. Loosing me my job of 12 years in the process. I also informed them of my pre-existing spinal deformities that were diagnosed in the teens and how these were affected by my later diagnosis as well as how they still impact on my life.

After it taking me a month to fill in the complex form due to be unable to write for short bursts before fingers/wrist stiffness, pain and cramps would stop me making me unable to hold my pen for several hours after. I sent it away and nervously awaited the call for a medical.

So after waiting more than 2 months I was sent two letters, one awarding me ESA (but placing me directly into a WRAG and telling me I have to attend a series of work focused interviews to come up with a plan to return me to work not see if I can return to work but start me back to work!), so on one hand they say I am disabled and have limited capability to work and two paragraphs down they practically assure me that I will be back in work. The second letter was telling me as I was on Contribution Based ESA that it might only be for 12 months maximum come next April when the government are putting a bill before Parliament to limit CB-ESA to this time period. Although I got it by having put in the NI contributions for the years I worked, so basically they are penalising those of us to actually worked and put into the system rather than supporting us when we most need it.

I'm not at all sure of my future. My RA and FMS are currently going through another flare up - this bad weather this year has been no aid to us sufferers as anyone who either has these diseases (or similar) or their friends/family can attest - and now I am feeling very anxious about my immediate future. I feel pressured and the anxiety I'm feeling is feeding into my FM and then my FM is making me worse and increasing my anxiety.

It's a very vicious circle with no end in sight.

I would love to work, take these ailments from me and I'll be the first person in the queue at the local JCP first thing Monday morning.

I did everything to stay in work. When I was first diagnosed with RA in my late 20's I first thought it was a mistake or not funny joke. But no such luck. Under the advise of the GP I informed my manager that due to working in a heavy duty manual job (I operated machinery in the factory) that I needed the opportunity to move sections/areas of the factory as my present job was accelerating my RA as well as my existing spinal problems, and if I was keep working and as well and mobile as possible I needed to change to a light weight job. Like the lighter assembly areas of the factory. It's to be noted that I already worked successfully in these areas covering absent workers on many occasions so no need to train me up there. On explaining all this to my line manager I was assured by both him and managers of the assembly area that the first opening for a full time worker there and the transfer was mine.

A year later I'm still struggling on the heavy machinery which now included working on the heavier presses which previously was a man only operation. They wanted us all to be able to cover each other's job and were forced to take our turns on these presses on a weekly basis. Not the best thing for my worsening condition.

So after seeing no less than 3 workers being hired from outside the firm to work in the assembly section I queried why the verbal assurance I got from my line manager was being ignored and I was being overlooked for these sections in favour of bringing in outside help. Even the assembly manager was at a loss because he had asked for me to be transferred more than once and been turned down each time and a new worker brought in who had to trained from day 1.

So confronting my line manager I eventually got told that they (the managers) couldn't afford to transfer me as I was fully trained and hit all the targets set by management and bringing in outside workers and training them would cause a fall in production and targets needed so I had to stay in the machine section. Regardless of my asking why this decision was made when it was obvious that the last 12 months my condition had worsened dramatically and I was on about my 4th or 5th RA medication in hopes to help control my condition.

They simply didn't care. My health was less important than hitting targets and production levels.

The ultimate irony the factory was lauded by disabled people because they let workers travel with a local wheelchair athlete to compete in a charity event so that they could keep his chair fully functional during the race. They built wheelchairs, both manual and electrical, and they were telling me. Someone with a disability that my health didn't matter to them target did!!

It back fired on them, and unfortunately on me, when within 2 years of diagnosis my GP had to refer me to the hospital and I was unable to walk without help from another person. I was housebound outside of trips to the doctor and hospital which I needed a whole lot of help getting to and back from.

I put in my first insurance line (first in 12 years of constant working) and within 24 hours the HR woman was phoning me at home asking me to attend a medical with the company doctor. Wonderful, eh? I knew workers in our factory which treated their full pay sick pay as an extra yearly holiday. You could depend on them to put in lines and get up to a month off on full pay every single year without fail!! And I had never had a day off sick and I was being immediately sent to the work's doctor to confirm I was too ill to work.

I attended. Being 15 minutes late when the signs to the centre sent me to the wrong place and resulted in me having to be directed to a building in the distance I had to go through the entire carpark I was in and through the length of the next car park and sign with the security guard there who would direct me to the building where medicals were taken. The doctor tried to refuse to see me as I was late and kept him waiting. We explained that following the directions in their letter and the signs they had out had led me a long distance and it took me over half and hour to find and get to the building after following the sign posts and directions.

With great reluctance he agreed to see me but left me waiting in the waiting room for another 45 minutes before calling me in. Punishment for being late I suppose. Don't know what he was doing during that time as I was the only person waiting and funnily no other patient left as I was called in so no other patient was being examined.

After talking to me for 10 minutes he stated he couldn't evaluate me as I was still going through a barrage of tests at the hospital to get my diagnosis confirmed and treatment started. He then demanded to ask why I had been sent to him as he could do nothing and couldn't give my work an estimation of when I would be able to return to work (which was all they wanted to know according to the notes he had). I said I had no idea as I explained all this to the HR and they still insisted I see the work's doctor. I was dismissed and he said he would send a letter saying he couldn't advise them of a return to work date until after I began treatment at the earliest.

I kept being sent back every month or so until the doctor I saw the last time said it could be years before any change in my current condition occurred. Unfortunately when it did it just got worse with the diagnosis of FM made as well.

Well, after starting and stopping several times because of pain in the fingers and wrists I'm finished my initial post. Sorry for any rant included!!

It's only taken me almost 2 hours to write. There you go maybe I am ready to work .... Note the Sarcasm!

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