May is ME Awareness Month and May 12 was International M.E. Awareness Day, which always coincides with the birthday of Florence Nightingale. These events are linked by the likelihood that Florence suffered from a form of ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) in her later life.
ME, sometimes referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is a complex, debilitating and potentially life-changing disease. It may develop gradually or occur as a result of an acute infection or virus. Diagnosis can be extremely difficult and lengthy and at present there is no clinical cure. It affects at least 250,000 adults and children in this country with over 9,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. It is classified by the World Health Organisation as a “disease of the central nervous system”.
It remains a much-misunderstood disease, often invisible to other people, although if you know anyone who has ME, you will be aware of the devastating effect it can have on someone’s life.
If you have no energy at all, if some days you’re too ill to get out of bed, if it takes you days to recover from a walk to the corner shop, if you’ve been refused welfare benefits - how do you think you would feel? Like someone with ME
Much-needed research into the disease is now being carried out around the world into its causes, diagnosis and ways in which treatment may be improved. But high quality research requires plenty of time and funding to bring forward the results that will benefit people with ME in a practical way. Locally, GPs are able to refer patients to the admirable Southern Derbyshire CFS/ME Service at the Royal Derby Hospital.
ME Derbyshire, a friendly volunteer-run support group has been providing valuable help, information and guidance for people with ME, their families and their carers for over 25 years. Details of the support group’s activities are available on www.me-derbyshire.org.uk or by calling 01332 864120.
A complete cure for everyone with the disease may be some way off but ME Derbyshire continues to provide understanding, friendship and encouragement for those whose quality of life is affected by their distressing and fluctuating symptoms.