Before my accident I lived up north. I had a tutoring job, good-ish income, and a couple of horses. I decided to move down to this neck of the woods, I sold my house and got this tiny little percentage of an ISA, which was going to be my down payment for a place here. That was until I had a crashing fall off my horse and smashed my leg.
The medical staff fixed the leg fine but didn’t accept that I had a complicated autoimmune condition. I’ve got Addison’s Disease, so I need medication to survive general anaesthesia. The staff said they had arranged it, but just as I went under, I heard them say a type of steroid which I know isn’t right for Addison’s. I went down thinking something fairly expletive like, “This is how it ends.”
After the surgery, I couldn’t come to and was desperately trying to claw myself out of unconsciousness. I finally managed to say something to the nurse who was sitting by me in recovery, but she didn’t do anything about it because she thought I was rambling. I was dying on their watch with the curtains drawn, “sleeping it off.” I wasn’t sleeping it off, I was gradually going unconscious.
"I’m treated like a real human being and given the confidence to go on, to survive and to achieve. Transform has given me my fight back."
The long and short is that many mistakes were made, and I got really ill, but they thought I was just messing them around. I lost 12 kilos in a week, was evicted from my hospital bed, and told to pay for my own accommodation.
Nobody discussed money with me or anything and I had no idea how much I needed to have in the bank to sustain these living arrangements. I moved from hotel to hotel and ended up in a touring caravan, which cost me £20 a night. By that time, my money had run out. I’d gone from having around £18k in the bank to living out of my overdraft, so I was stuck there. It was a nightmare.
I was confused and living in chaos, not because I’m a chaotic person but because my back was against the wall. The only income I could get was from tutoring, so I was driving around the place while still being ill every other day. Eventually someone put me in touch with Transform and I accessed their drop-in service, where I met my keyworker.
There are times when you think, “I haven’t got the energy to do this anymore.” And with Addison’s, if you haven’t got the energy you just go to sleep and you don’t wake up, easy, and everybody thinks, “Oh, she died of an Addison’s crash.” You can manipulate it if you want to. And there were times when I honestly got that close, but my keyworker was always popping up and sorting me out.
He helped me apply for housing benefits and I was able to move into a static caravan, which I absolutely love. It’s got a little bathroom which is easy to clean, hot water, and a bedroom with a king-size bed. I’ve even got a washing machine in my shed – I think I actually cried when I got it. Transform also put me in touch with a charity called The Cowshed, who bought me a second-hand wood burning stove and paid for it to be fitted. With the extra money coming in from the benefits, I’m able to keep the gas on and go online, so I can teach virtually.
Now I feel positive about life; little things come along and they don’t floor me anymore. Recently my car needed to go in for servicing, which cost a fortune. Then the leccy went out, and that with the bill for the car would have absolutely unglued me before. But I was able to take stock and say what I do to anybody else, which is that you can’t expect things to be perfect – you’ve got to let them be good enough.
Transform has never made me feel like I was a customer. I’m not treated like a cold thing, an item or a statistic. I’m treated like a real human being and given the confidence to go on, to survive, and to achieve. Transform has given me my fight back.
My initial contact with Hilary was a bit bizarre because we met in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, so it wasn’t face-to-face. She was very down-beaten and had spent four or five years living in a touring caravan in ill-health.
People who live in touring caravans are not allowed to stay in one park for more than 28 days. She was forced to move out and live in a field for a few days before going back to the park so that she wasn’t breaking any laws. It was tough and she just didn’t know where to turn.
She had previously been misadvised by different services, which meant she never got the support she needed. How she could have been living in that tiny little touring caravan through winters is beyond me – it makes me sad.
Hilary can find it challenging to do things when she’s ill or tired, so there was a lot of me ringing her up going, “Come on Hilary, we’ve got to do this!” We got the housing benefits done in the end and she was able to move into her new place.
Seeing her move in was a stand-out moment for me because I don’t think she realised that she was homeless before. She was getting older, and she was homeless and I don’t think she fully took that on board.
Now she’s got her allotment, a garden, and a little dog – sounds idyllic to be honest. She’s doing a lot of pro-bono teaching online in subjects like maths and English, and she’s said she’d be happy to do that for some of our clients too. I might just take her up on that offer!