Tag Archives: unsung heroes

Recognising Allergy Heroes

MzQ1QzM3M0E4MzFCNjM4QjYzMUY6YWUxNzkyMGNiZWRkMjJhNGIyYWI2YTNlNDZiNGJjODM6Ojo6OjA=Whilst we’ve been settling back into life at home after our amazing Italian break, it hasn’t escaped my notice that in the last couple of weeks there have been 2 sets of awards launched – both relating to allergies and both looking at vastly different aspects of the allergy world. One is celebrating people who support allergy-sufferers, be it in a professional capacity or a more supporting role at home, and the other looking for restaurants who go that extra mile to make meals out an option when living with food allergies. The one thing they’ve got in common is that they’re both looking to give recognition to those individuals and organisations whose tireless work makes a difference to those living with allergies and to celebrate their efforts. To make sure I focus equally on both awards as they are both incredibly important in my opinion, today’s post will look at just one set of awards and the other I’ll discuss in my next blog post.

Allergy UK Hero Awardshero-awards-(logo)_cropped_200_165 – this year marks 25 years since Allergy UK came into being as a national charity that is now thought to support around 21 million allergy sufferers across the UK. Not only do they provide a comprehensive support network including a dedicated help line and on-line forum, but they also endeavour to educate those health professionals who work with patients living with allergic conditions. To help celebrate this anniversary in style, Allergy UK has asked for nominations for their Hero Awards, which will recognise the efforts of individuals to help, support and encourage friends, family members and any in their local community who are living with allergies.

There are 5 different award categories to choose between and nominations must be made before 1st July 2016:

  • Child Allergy Hero – a child or teenager (up to the age of 18) who has had the courage to help or has saved the life of an allergy sufferer
  • Family/Friend Allergy Hero – a family member or friend (over the age of 18) that has shown courage and commitment to their allergic child/parent/carer/sibling/other
  • Community Allergy Hero – an individual who has gone beyond the call of duty and has helped, improved or saved a life of someone with allergy in their community
  • Healthcare Professional Allergy Hero – a member of the healthcare profession who helps and manages the allergic patient’s condition and who provides on-going care with commitment, compassion and communication
  • Clinical Team Allergy Heroes – a team of clinicians who have shown care, compassion, communication and commitment to help their allergic patients

awardI am delighted to see that the awards are open to just about anyone and not restricted to healthcare professionals. All too often the unsung heroes are the family members and friends who live with allergy sufferers and the ups and downs that life with allergies throws at them on a regular basis. To be able to give much-deserved recognition to these people is fantastic, although it’s good to also have the opportunity to nominate anyone from the medical community who has provided truly exceptional and perhaps personal care. I will be making my own nominations soon and would urge you to do the same if you feel there’s someone out there who has made a real difference to others living with allergies. The allergy world is often surprisingly small and tight-knit, so I’m looking forward to seeing if any familiar faces have been recognised for all that they do for those of us trying to survive the presence of allergies in our everyday lives.

To vote, please click on this link to the Allergy UK website. It’ll only take 10 minutes of your time and could give a real boost to an unsung allergy hero.

Day 5: But who supports the supporters?

Family on Blackboard-webWhen you are tube-fed, I think it’s only natural to expect the support of your nearest and dearest, especially in the case of the tube-fed child. In a recent interview about her MS diagnosis, actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler from the US TV show “The Sopranos” said that “when one person in the family has a chronic illness, the whole family has it.” and this really resonated with me. M, I hope, has never needed to question the unfailing and unconditional support that Mike and I will give him along every step of his journey, but it’s not just us who have walked that way with him over the last 12 months. Without any say in the matter, G has been dragged along for the ride too and has been a great comfort and support to M when it matters most, arguments and fallings-out aside. I have talked before about the amazing community that surrounds our family, but G has been something of an unsung hero in the story. Over the last few years we have seen her struggle to cope with the reality of having a chronically ill brother, which has manifested itself in behaviour and attitudes that are less than ideal and which need love and understanding in the most testing of times. We work hard to try to give G as much time as we can, but sometimes that can’t be as much as we’d want, especially when going through a particularly tough time with M. Sometimes siblings need more time than the parents can find, so who is it that can help parents support these young supporters?

Many people will have heard of Young Carers projects, but perhaps will not realise how massive and vital a role these groups can play in families dealing with chronic illness. Young carers are defined as “children and young people who often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult.” Being a young carer is an isolating experience as the child may be reluctant to discuss their home life with friends at school for fear of bullying and will often feel that they are in a unique situation. imagesYoung Carers groups try to meet on a regular basis to give the youngsters a much-needed break from the day-to-day, the opportunity to meet other young carers who will truly understand the pressures and strains they are under and the chance to have fun and be a child. Depending on the location, and sadly on the funding available, these organisations may offer evening clubs, weekends away, days out and even holidays as well as friendly advice, information and counselling to both the young carer and their family. In our area, there is also a school worker who runs lunchtime clubs at some of the local secondary schools, hold awareness assemblies and will act as an advocate for the child if needed.

Frequently these youngsters don’t identify themselves in the role of a young carer and it came as no surprise to me that G didn’t as I certainly had never really thought about her in terms of being a young carer until fairly recently. Thanks to a well-placed poster, a stray comment at school and some gentle prodding from a fab EGID friend, I contacted our local Young Carers group, filled in their referral document and sent it off with my fingers tightly crossed that something helpful would come from it. With the most amazing coincidental timing, at almost the same time that I was waiting for a reply, G had spotted a poster in the Year 7 canteen, took a photo on her phone and showed it to me, asking if I thought this was something that she could find out more about. Delighted that she was interested in this support and wanting to encourage her to investigate the opportunity under her own steam too, I agreed that she should contact the teacher named and see what further information she would be given from within school. P1000101She and a close friend in a not-too-dissimilar position have since met with this teacher a couple of times and have been given more information about our local young carers group as well as a list of useful contact names and numbers.

We also had a positive response from my referral form and last week G and I met with Hannah, one of the Young Carers team. She was with us for about an hour and talked to G about all things Young Carers. Having established that G understood what was meant by the term “young carer”, Hannah then took the time to explain how G fit into that role and then they discussed at length just how G helps M and the rest of the family and how she feels about it. I stayed in the kitchen the whole time, but switched between sitting at the table with them and carrying on with preparing feeds, meds, packed lunches and dinner in order to give G the chance to open up about her feelings. I reassured her that we wanted her to be 100% honest about the emotional impact that M’s illness has on her and was pleased to hear her being just that. Nothing she said surprised me in the slightest and I found it a relief to see her open to the idea of the Young Carers groups and all they can offer. She is keen to get started as soon as possible and is just waiting for the paperwork to be processed and the invitation to drop onto the doormat Hogwarts-style!

I am fascinated and pleased to see that there is an increasing awareness worldwide of the lasting impact of chronically ill siblings on children and the need to seek ways to effectively support them as they grow up, often in the shadow of the sick child. Last year I became aware of another fantastic project, this time by Australian photographer, Alexandrena Parker and Rare Voices Australia, entitled The Forgotten Ones, which sought to highlight this aspect of the rare disease community and unsung-hero-greport…to celebrate and recognise the unspoken and often forgotten support that siblings provide to loved ones suffering.” This is just one person’s small step to make a difference to these unfailing supporters, but with the help of projects like The Forgotten Ones and Young Carers, we can all help support our sick children and their unsung heroes.

 

*The wonderful charity, Over the Wall, also provides respite camps for sick children, their siblings and their families, either all together or separately. You can find out more here.