Jackie wearing a headset and paramedic uniform smiling to camera from her desk

Working as a paramedic and having MS

My name’s Jackie and I am a Paramedic Clinical Advisor, working in the control room for East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS).

Calm support in an emergency

I’ve worked at EMAS since 2006 and I’ve worked in the control room for the last five years. My job, along with other paramedics, nurses, and mental health nurses, is to look at all the 999 calls coming in.

We speak to patients to see if an ambulance is needed, or whether an alternative course of action is more suitable. If needed we also give emergency instructions until the ambulance arrives on scene. Over a ten week period, I work a set pattern of two twelve-hour day shifts and then two 12-hour nights, then four off.

My diagnosis with MS

I was diagnosed with MS following an MRI scan in February last year. I was then referred to the MS Team at the Sheffield Hallamshire Hospital. I was absolutely devastated. I put it to the back of my mind and continued to work hard.

But after a while I decided I wanted some more information about MS and to see what local help there was. So I contacted a friend at the local Retford MS group. I attended a coffee morning where I was lucky enough to meet my MS nurse.

Dealing with depression

In August 2019 I had to go for a lumber puncture. After this procedure I was having severe headaches [headaches can follow a lumbar puncture – read more] and this is when it all hit me. I had got MS and there was no hiding away from it anymore. I also started with severe depression and ended up on anti-depressants.

Working differently

By October 2019 I wanted to return to work but I didn’t feel confident enough to return to my job due to the anxiety about dealing with patients. After speaking to my managers about it, I was able to work in a different role, dealing with staff rotas in the resourcing department. It was great to be back in my workplace seeing my colleagues again.

At the beginning of March, I returned to my role as Clinical Advisor, but was soon medically stood down because of COVID-19 as there was no way for me to social distance whilst at work.

Working from home

Then EMAS provided me with computer equipment, which enables me to continue to do my job fully and effectively from home. Working from home has helped massively with my MS. If I’m having an off day, I no longer need to worry about driving to work, which has really helped in reduce my anxiety.

I am very lucky to have the support of my friends, my managers and colleagues at EMAS and my care team. I would like to thank them all for being there for me.

Life after lockdown

Once it’s possible, I’m hoping to get back to enjoying my hobbies. I like playing darts and pool. Before lockdown I'd been planning to attend some activities with the Retford MS group including clay pigeon shooting and archery lessons. I also enjoy photography, so I’m hoping to get my camera out again this year. My favourite photography is aviation and wildlife.

I know that whatever I do, I'll have to be careful due to fatigue and balance issues. I was provided with an FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation) in March before the lockdown, which has helped with my mobility as I have left foot drop and I was having regular trips and falls. I also walk with a stick.

I hope that this insight into my world helps others. It’s a very strange and difficult time for many of us.

Join our information webinar on employment and MS on Thursday 13 August to ask your questions about work and the pandemic.

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