A CROHN’S disease sufferer has spoken of the debilitating pain of her condition, as a charity urges employers to take note of its impact on patients’ lives.
Laura Bruce, 28, of Osbourne Drive, Queensbury, had suffered with stomach problems for five years before she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
The condition is thought to occur because the body’s immune system attacks the digestive system - causing symptoms including stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss, tiredness and lack of concentration.
Laura had visited the GP frequently with stomach problems from the age or 13 but it was put down to factors such as exam stress.
In 2001 she collapsed with excruciating abdominal pain and rushed to hospital where surgeons found, and removed, a large mass where abcesses had built up over time.
She is on daily drugs for the rest of her life and during flare-ups has to go to the hospital every eight weeks.
She is currently having a flare-up which started in January 2008. “It does get me down but I’m a high-spirited person and try not to let it stop me doing anything,” she said.
Charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK is currently campaigning to raise awareness among employers as work can be greatly affected.
Laura is a community mental health practitioner - because of her condition it took her five years to complete her nursing training instead of three.
She said: “I have a supportive team leader but my Crohn’s disease makes my working life challenging at times.
“Only this last year I’ve had to take 15 weeks off work sick because flare-ups lead to constant pain, weight loss, unpredictable bowel movements and extreme tiredness and fatigue.
“I’ve also reduced my hours from full-time to part-time on occasions when my Crohn’s disease becomes unsettled due to extreme tiredness and fatigue.
“In my job, I travel around the community by visiting clients but some days I have to be office-based as I need to access the toilet quickly. Although my colleagues are supportive and understanding, I do get embarrassed when I’m in and out of the toilet constantly.
“I do worry that my Crohn’s disease and sickness record may make future employers think twice.”
The charity’s report found 68 per cent of employees with Crohn’s or colitis felt they had little or no control over their working conditions.
Crohn’s: the facts
• Research estimates 21,032 people are living with the disease in Yorkshire and the Humber.
• Symptoms occur when part of the gut becomes inflamed.
• These include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, weight loss, feeling generally unwell.
• The condition tends to get better or worse sporadically.
• Between one in 1,000 and 1,500 people have Crohn’s disease in the UK.
• The symptoms usually first appear between the ages of 15 and 40.
• The precise cause of Crohn’s is unknown.