Understanding the reality of chronic fatigue

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Dr Ros Vallings who will give a public talk on ME at the South Court Hotel on May 20.
Dr Ros Vallings who will give a public talk on ME at the South Court Hotel on May 20.

“I SAID ‘you can do this; you can fight it’. But, unfortunately, you can’t. It disciplines the strongest of people.”

For Sarah Warde, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) has overshadowed most aspects of her life for the past 18 years.

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The mother-of-one from Dooradoyle was perfectly healthy and working full time until she got a severe chest infection in 2001. The infection travelled to her lungs causing a serious case of pneumonia.

After the illness abated, she found that she wasn’t feeling as strong as usual. She was diagnosed with post-viral fatigue and was no longer able to work.

She never fully recovered and was eventually diagnosed with ME/CFS.

The cause of ME/CFS is still unknown, but 80 per cent of sufferers report falling ill from an infection as the catalyst for the condition. The Irish ME/CFS Association estimates that approximately 14,000 people suffer from the condition in Ireland although there has yet to be a study done here.

Symptoms include overwhelming flu-like exhaustion made worse by physical or mental exertion, muscle and joint pains, sore throats, swollen glands, disturbed sleep, impaired concentration and memory, dizziness and headaches.

For Sarah Warde, the symptoms are quite specific.

“It’s like your body saying, ‘No, you cannot do this’. I’ve tried to fight it so many times and every time, I end up sick. In the end, my husband said to me – listen, you’ve got to stop.”

“I relate to the robots you see in movies – they work fine for maybe a few hours, and then the battery would start going, the speech would go, the limbs would slow down and then it would just stop. It’s the same for me with chronic fatigue.”

“I said you can do this; you can fight it. But, unfortunately, you can’t. It disciplines the strongest of people,” she said.

Ms Warde felt extremely isolated with ME/CFS and decided there should be a space where people with the condition could meet and share their experience. She then set up a self-help group in Marshal House in Dooradoyle.

New Zeland doctor Ros Vallings, who is a world expert on ME/CFS, will address some of the symptoms, diagnosis and management of the condition at a public talk in the South Court Hotel, Raheen on Monday, May 20.

Vera Kindlon, Chairperson of the Irish ME/CFS Association said:  “We are lucky to have a recognised world expert on the condition come to speak with us to share her knowledge. We hope patients across the country will benefit from the wealth of her experience”.

Sarah Warde also is looking forward to meeting Dr Vallings on May 20: “I’ve gotten a lot of help from her over the years. She’s brilliant.”

The event, which is part of ME Awareness Month, gets underway at 11.30am.

Details at www.irishmecfs.org

LIMERICK SUPPORT GROUP

The Limerick ME self-help group operated by Sarah Warde will be on a summer break until September. Contact the Irish ME Trust: 014013629 or [email protected] for details.