Running for Recognition – why my husband took part in a half marathon in aid of EDS UK.

Running for Recognition – why my husband took part in a half marathon in aid of EDS UK.

Today is Father’s Day here in the UK, the day where most of us choose to celebrate the men in our lives. They could be our Father, our Grandfather or a Father figure; or like me, it could be the Father to our children. My husband is not only Dad, he’s also my carer. He’s ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ in our house (a saying I heard a lot as a child) and he works incredibly hard to do his best by me and our children, all three of them.

Though my husband Karl is biologically Father to my youngest son and my stepson, in reality he is Dad to all of our children. When my daughter talks of her Daddy, she refers to him. When she tells her friends at school about her Dad, it’s him she’s talking about. She is his little girl in every way shape and form; they play fight and play pranks on each other, they watch football together and play team computer games. Soon she will be towering over him, but she will forever be his little girl.

Recently she had her EDS diagnosis reconfirmed just like me (they like to do another check a few years after the original one to see if any thing has changed) . They’ve reclassified it now, called it Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder in order to try and make Doctors less fearful of the diagnosis, but it’s the same condition. As usual Karl was by my side at her appointment, listening in to all the advice we were given so he could help as much as possible. Then, out of the blue a few weeks later he decided to sign up for the Doncaster Half Marathon in aid of EDS UK with only a week or so to prepare! Why? This is what he said when I asked…

Why did you decide to run the half marathon?

Initially I decided to run the half marathon as a challenge for myself. My whole life is devoted to looking after the family and its meant I’ve let my own interests and hobbies fall on the back burner. Recently my wife’s health has deteriorated which has left me under more pressure, this has manifested itself in depression; something very common in people who care for their loved ones. I haven’t been to the gym in years, but I thought if I could complete the run it would be a great way to kick start my journey back to a more active lifestyle. My wife now has a home care package and we should hopefully be moving to a bungalow soon, this gives us both more opportunities for independence. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife and children; I just don’t think people realise quite how high pressure being a carer and parent is. So, when I saw this opportunity I decided to jump at it.

What made you choose EDS UK as your charity?

As soon as I signed up for the run I knew EDS UK would be the charity for me. Both my wife and daughter are afflicted by Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and its important to me that I show them both that I fully support them as best as I can. I know about the illness due to my family being so heavily affected by it, but most people have never even heard of it. Since joining support groups and learning about the condition myself I’ve realised there are thousands and thousands of people worldwide suffering in countless ways because of it. For such a widespread condition there is so little exposure, I wanted to try and do my part to help spread the word.

How do you feel about the money raised, do you feel lack of knowledge contributed to the amount of donations?

So far we have raised £75; I know it doesn’t seem a huge amount, but I only had a week to fundraise. For the time I had to prepare I’m happy with the amount I raised, after all every little helps towards finding much needed research that will eventually help people like my family and I. Obviously we all want to raise thousands of pounds, I’ve even left my fundraiser open in case anyone still chooses to donate, but with the condition being so unheard of it can be difficult to raise money. Often people assume it’s just a case of having hypermobility (as it’s also known as Hypermobility Syndrome) and don’t realise the many debilitating effects EDS can have on a person. Hopefully the more visible EDS becomes, the more people will learn and be willing to donate.

Did you get chance to raise awareness through fundraising?

I hope so. I chose to run in the EDS charity vest which is bright yellow and very eye catching. From what I could see I was the only person there wearing one, so hopefully seeing me pass by got people thinking about the condition.

In the run up to the half marathon I also shared the fundraiser all over my local Facebook and asked people in the support groups to share too. My wife also shared the link from her Facebook page which she uses to talk about all aspects of living with EDS and her other associated conditions; last week her page got two thousand hits so hopefully some people stayed to read a little of the information on there.

Due to an injury I picked up three miles in, I ran alongside two women from around eight miles; they hadn’t heard of EDS before so I told them all about it and how it affects so many people. It felt good to be able to educate someone on the condition and also kept my mind off the pain I was feeling. Hopefully they will go on to tell other people about the crazy guy who ran the half marathon on no training to raise awareness of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I know that I’ve raised awareness in at least two people, I’m happy with that. If each of us could educate just two people then think of how many would understand the condition better, it could be in the millions.

Do you feel the aches and injury caused by the race gave you a better insight into life with EDS?

Oh yes, most definitely. I hurt so badly for three days solid after the run. Obviously I hurt where I’d injured myself by pulling my groin, but I also hurt everywhere else. Literally everywhere, even my fingers hurt. I do feel it’s helped me relate better to the pain my wife and child feel, particularly my wife as she was diagnosed later in life so has sustained a lot of strain on her joints. Injuries and sprains in EDS are cumulative, once a joint is damaged it never gets back to how it was (or this is how we have had it explained). Because my wife was unaware of her condition she used to push through her pain and fatigue, this has left her in a state of serious chronic pain. So yes, I do feel it’s helped me understand her better when she tells me everything hurts, but I’ll never know what it’s like to be in a degree of pain all day every day. I struggle to even imagine it.

Why didn’t you give up after the injury?

I didn’t give up for several reasons. Firstly, this was a personal goal of mine and it meant a lot to me to complete it; also I wanted to give those who had been kind enough to donate their monies worth. Most of all though, I wanted to make my wife and children proud.

At around eight miles in I collapsed in pain by the road, I thought I was done and rung my wife to tell her I had failed and would be getting collected by the sweeper bus. I really believed I couldn’t go on.

My wife told me how proud her and the kids were of me, that whether I completed it or not I was a winner in their eyes. She also put the phone on speaker so my children could shout words of encouragement down the phone. This was the first time she had been alone with the children for over a year, but she reassured me they were all being great and her carer was due any minute meaning I could walk the rest of the run if needed. She encouraged me but didn’t pressure me.

The two ladies I mentioned earlier offered for me to tag along with them as they weren’t going to be rushing and running in a group is always easier. Much like when battling an illness, support is key. Thanks to the mental boost from my call home I was able to catch up with the ladies I’d met and complete the whole thirteen miles. I’m so glad I did as I wanted so badly to earn the medal and give Ehlers Danlos the exposure it deserves.

What do you think about the way doctors treat EDS? (how much knowledge they have, their willingness to treat patients with the condition?)

After seeing how my wife is treat due to her condition I know for sure that more research needs doing into the condition and the problems it causes. When my wife is taken into Hospital and has to spend her time educating almost every doctor she sees about her condition you know something isn’t right. We have travelled to London more times than I can count because there are so few specialists North of the capital. What’s even more disheartening is even when you do see a specialist in Ehlers Danlos they will more often than not refuse to treat any of the issues it causes! Often we are left feeling disappointed and hopeless. I can’t talk for other countries, but in the UK something needs to change. Even issues not linked to the EDS don’t get treatment, my wife has an aneurysm and she’s literally been told that she’s lucky it’s not in a spot that will kill her if /when it busts as due to her EDS they won’t consider surgery on it! Things need to change.

As a parent and partner how does EDS affect you?

Ehlers Danlos has completely changed my life despite me not being a sufferer. I had to give up a well paid job around four years ago in order to become my wife’s full time carer, my friendships have all but fizzled away and I’ve had to put up with a lot of negativity about not working.

Since leaving work my partners health has deteriorated. She has developed Cranio Cervical instability as well as other issues with her spine, this means she relies on me to get around and has to be laid in bed a lot. The stairs are dangerous for her as her legs go from under her without warning, so on the rare occasion she makes it downstairs I have to bare her weight over my shoulders. This is not only dangerous it’s also caused me to injure my back. Hopefully we will soon get a bungalow that will suit our needs better and my wife will get a PA, but even then I’ll be her carer. It’s unlikely I’ll get back to work and if I do it won’t be in a job with long demanding hours like before.

With my daughter I do find it tricky. She’s at an age where hormones are beginning to fly around her body and it’s hard to tell what is a hormonal meltdown and what is her body telling her she is in pain or needs to rest. Even she doesn’t recognise the signs that her body has had enough for one day yet, so it’s very hard for me to. Sometimes I don’t pick up on when she’s actually in pain, I’m trying to improve on that.

As much as I know about EDS I’ll never actually know how either of them feel as it’s not my body it’s hurting.

Will you be doing more events?

I do plan on doing more events throughout the year and will be proudly sporting my EDS vest at each one of them, though I won’t be doing another thirteen mile run on no training any time soon! Some people think I’m stupid for taking on the Half Marathon at such short notice, but I’m glad I did it as its proved to me that I can still achieve my goals. Currently I’m considering another local run through Yorkshire Wildlife Park, its a 5k run with a fun run that your children can join if they like. The entry fee goes towards the conservation of the animals at the park, including Zebras (which anyone with EDS will know are our mascot). I’ll also be raising sponsorship for EDS UK. Plus I’m on the lookout for other local events, eventually working up to doing Tough Mudder and such. I hope to get plenty of use out of my EDS vest!

Any further comments?

The only thing I want to say to anyone out there who is battling this illness is never give up. I know it’s hard; there are days my wife can barely move for pain, days where the lack of medical help gets us all down to rock bottom, but don’t give up. As long as people keep up the fight to raise both awareness and funding there’s hope that things will improve; never give up that hope.

If you would like to donate to Karl’s latest fundraiser please click HERE. I’ll update the link each time he starts a new one, so feel free to check back if the current one has finished. There’s still time to sponsor his half marathon!

All professional photographs accredited to Nullstack Ltd.

Sonia’s Story….

Sonia’s Story….

Our story begins on September 1st 2012. The day started much like any other, with Sonia heading off to work at a well known frozen food store. Sonia was a busy lady, holding down a hectic job and being mum to her beautiful children. Days whizzed by in a blur of work, cooking, cleaning, love and laughter. But on that day, as Sonia took off her shoes after work, something halted her in her tracks. 

Sonia enjoying her birthday with her workmates.

On the side of her foot was a lump. Something she hadn’t noticed before, and was concerned enough to visit her doctor about. An ultrasound scan revealed the lump to be some form of tumour, that originated at Sonia’s ankle. When within a week the tumour more than tripled in size the doctor decided it best to have it removed. Surgery was scheduled. It was to be a simple routine procedure. The tumour was a none cancerous ganglion and there was nothing to worry about. 

Little did Sonia know that this procedure would change her life so completely. 

September 17th, surgery day. As soon as the anaesthetic wore off Sonia knew something was amiss. 

My foot was on fire, and yet it was as cold as ice! – Sonia

She needed to get the bandages off, she couldn’t stand the pain a second longer! Almost immediately her foot swelled to such and extent that the brand new stitches burst, leaving her with a gruesome open wound! Of course she headed back to the doctors for the first of many visits. The wound was washed and cared for, helped to heal. But still the pain persisted. Nobody knew what was wrong. Doctors were left scratching their heads. Within a month Sonia was unable to move her toes at all from the unexplained pain. 

Two weeks and three days after surgery Sonia’s still swollen foot and open wound was still nowhere near healed.

Fast forward eight months and Sonia was finally given some answers after seeking help from a specialist. It was CRPS – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Not only that, but she had CRPS Type 2. The type that, unlike type 1, does not go into remission. 

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 2 (CRPS Type 2) is a severely painful response to a peripheral nerve injury. CRPS Type 2 is characterized by severe, burning pain affecting a specific area as a result of the nerve injury. RSDguide.com

Not one to take things lying down Sonia immediately hit the Internet. Desperately trying to find information about this new hurdle that had blocked her path in life. Surely there was something she could do?  But everything she could find described Type 1. What little there was about the type she was suffering was sparse and often ill informed. So, as the doctors prescribed her with drug after drug to try and help her symptoms, Sonia began to write. She wrote page after page of diaries. Her symptoms, her moods, her feelings. Anything and everything in the hope it could one day help someone. 

The CRPS caused Sonia to feel she had completely lost who she once was. Known as the ‘Suicide disease’; the pain often left her wishing she hadn’t woken up that morning. Life just became too much and it wasn’t long before Sonia was unable to work. Socialising also went out the window, as did just about every aspect of the life she once new. The only constant now being the love of her beautiful children and never ending crippling pain. 

Over seven months after surgery and the swelling is glaringly apparent. This photo was taken after four hours of having her foot raised.

Sonia’s foot swelled to almost unbelievable sizes on a daily, if not hourly basis. Taking an age to reduce back in size, never really resembling normal. It burns constantly whilst at the same time feeling freezing cold. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Imagine putting your foot inside that bucket of ice until it was so cold you had freezer burn. Imagine never being able to take it out again. You might just be getting close to the horror Sonia goes through on a daily basis with CRPS. 

It’s been four years since she has been able to bathe or maintain her foot herself. Even bedclothes touching it is excruciating. A simple toenail trim involves a trip to hospital and anaesthetic, otherwise it’s just too painful. Information online indicates that CRPS type 2 doesn’t spread, but that’s not the case. Sonia now has pain in her left foot, knee and hip. It’s also spread to her threat, right ear and right eye. She has been bedbound for over three years due to the severity of her symptoms. 

Many doctors say that scripture tells them it doesn’t spread. Sorry, but myself and hundreds of other CRPS Survivors can prove different. Yes we call ourselves survivors because CRPS is also known as “The Suicide Disease”. And I can understand why! – Sonia 

By July 2013 the constant battle with her body had become too much for Sonia. Though she loved her children desperately she felt she wasn’t strong enough to go on any longer. Hiding away her Morphine and CoCodamol tablets, she planned to take her life on July 13th. 

But once again, life has other plans for Sonia. 

On July 11th she received a call from her eldest daughter. She was at an antenatal class that day, pregnant with her first child. Sonia thought she was calling to talk about the morning sickness that had dogged her throughout the pregnancy, but today’s call was about something altogether more urgent. Her daughter was about to be rushed in for an emergency C section. The pregnancy had taken a dramatic turn and it was operate now or risk life of both mum and baby! 

Luckily, everything went well and nine weeks early Sonia’s beautiful granddaughter entered into the world. Named Scarlett, she was absolutely perfect! Not only that, but she was a wonderful reason to keep fighting, a reason to live! Sonia believes that Scarlett arrived early to save her; and seeing their close bond, it’s not hard to believe that’s the case. 

Baby Scarlett looking beautiful.

Sonia threw herself into making clothes for her tiny premature granddaughter, soon realising she had a clear talent. Soon Scarlett had plenty to kit her out, so Sonia went on to make things for other tiny babies. Always thinking of others, she had noted a clear lack of clothes for premature babies on the market, and what there was was very expensive. Not ideal for families who are likely already spending a lot of money to be able to spend time with a baby in hospital. 

She set up a Facebook page, and things just grew from there! Eventually Sonia branched out, learning to make jewellery when she came into some jewellery making kit unexpectedly. She loved it, and better still so did her youngest daughter! For a mum who had lost so much time with her children, it was great to find a passion they could enjoy together. Another page was born S & J Crafting Creations, where Sonia and her daughter could sell their wares. 

Whilst their page was relatively new Sonia saw an advert for Conscious Crafties a sales platform for disabled people and their carers. Immediately she got in touch and just like that she became the first EVER crafty! Within a week of joining she became friends with the Founder, Karen Thomas, and has been of invaluable help to her ever since. 

A selection of products in Sonia’s shop.

That was a year ago, and Sonia cannot believe how far she has come. Not only does she have her own business, but she has another purpose! One more reason to live! Sonia’s business is flourishing. Her motto is ‘Giving the gift of a smile!’ That’s exactly what she aims to do. 

Right now only Sonia’s arms and hands that work. So she crafts all day every day whilst she still can, she will not be beaten nor will she give up! Sonia is a fighter in the truest sense of the word, and if I could have one wish this Christmas it would be to allow her to continue with her passion for as long as she could wish for. She deserves it!

To visit Sonia’s shop please CLICK HERE.

Jaymee’s Battle.

Jaymee’s Battle.

Our story begins when Jaymee became a mother, at the age of twenty. Soon after she was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression, a fairly common problem that many mothers face. As is so often the case, Jaymee was given antidepressants and sent on her way. But Jaymee knew deep down something wasn’t right. Months passed, and she didn’t improve. Those months turned into years and still Jaymee was no better. During this time the doctors tried many different tablets, but none of them worked. The only thing Jaymee gained from the medication was a detachment from her feelings, a numbness to life.  This feeling (or lack of it) enveloped her, it became her new normal. Her coping mechanism to get through the endless days of feeling broken inside.


Around 2013 Jaymee got to the point where she lost herself completely, she had a complete mental breakdown. The medication she had been on had only delayed the inevitable. She describes herself as “high as a kite one minute, the next (she) was the lowest (she’d) ever been”. Jaymee was thrill seeking, and taking crazy risks, with no consideration for those around her. Yes, she admits she had fun at first, but there comes a point when the fun stops and all you’re left with is emptiness and regret. It’s not fun anymore when you’re constantly hurting those who love you. You’d think that being a mother would help put things into perspective, but alas it didn’t. She couldn’t see beyond her own selfish desires. Looking back it was a very dark time in her life, though at the time she didn’t realise.  

Jaymee says, “This is a place I don’t want to go back to.  It was awful. I hurt and blamed the ones who loved me, pushed away people who cared.”

Along the way Jaymee was unkind to herself as well as her family and friends. She had completely lost herself, to the point she wasn’t even Jaymee anymore. It felt as though her head just wouldn’t work how she needed it to. She was lost, adrift in a sea of confusion and extreme emotion. Eventually she snapped. Everything came crashing down and Jaymee could cope no longer. Desperate for help she did something “really stupid and regrettable”,  and though she wishes it had never come to that, she did finally get the attention of her doctors. After years of them just telling her it’s depression, here’s a tablet;  they finally took noticed and realised there may be something more going on. 

Jaymee was referred to a Psychological unit. Finally she had been guided onto a path, instead of wandering aimlessly lost through life. She remembers how the first thing they considered was Bipolar Disorder, but it wasn’t that. She remembers how it took a whole year of doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists analysing her to finally get an answer. A year of being watched, evaluated, pried into. A year of waiting, stressing and wondering. It was not easy to go through, but it was worth it. Because eventually Jaymee got her diagnosis. Her label. 

Jaymee has Borderline Personality Disorder. The symptoms of this are wide ranging and can easily be mistaken for other things, such as depression. But BPD is completely different, and as such will not respond well to the tablets Jaymee had previously tried. Mind describes Personality Disorders as being a type of mental health problem where your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours cause you longstanding problems in your life.

Being diagnosed didn’t make all Jaymees problems go away, but it did help her to understand herself a lot better, to start being kinder to herself. Her diagnosis meant she was able to explain to the people she loved why she behaves in the way she does. It helped her learn to accept herself again, and take some control back. She was finally put on medication that had been properly tailored to her needs. Medication that actually helped. But even more importantly she was given a team of people to support her, and guide her through learning to live with her new label. She had counselling and went on courses to help her manage her emotions.

The journey was just starting, and it was to be a long and difficult one. Getting a diagnosis, a label on your back, does not automatically make things easy. There were many bumps in the road, and Jaymee almost gave up on herself so many times. But she didn’t, she caught hard and she’s still here today, stronger than ever before. 

Last year Jaymees life took another turn, tragedy struck and she lost her Father. The man she had worshipped and adored all her life. Such a cataclysmic event is enough for anyone to fall off their path in life, let alone someone with mental illness. But instead Jaymee did the opposite, she grasped her life in both hands and took back control entirely. Starting by coming off her medication. Now, Jaymee admits this was probably a rash decision, and it’s certainly not something she would recommend to others, but she knew it was something she needed to do. Jaymee needed to grieve for her father, to work through her pain and her loss, she knew this wouldn’t be possible for her on medication designed to dampen down extremes of emotion. Her doctors disapproved, but in the end it was her choice, not theirs. But she didn’t turn her back on all the things she had learned since her diagnosis. Jaymee took those skills and used them to get through life, facing one day at a time.

A year on and Jaymee hasn’t touched her medication again, and she’s feeling better than she has done in a long time. Finally she feels as though she’s found a part of herself again. Things are not easy, she still struggles from time to time, a diagnosis of BPD doesn’t just go away if you choose to stop taking your medication. But Jaymee is learning to live with it, with pride and a new sense of self worth. This has been one of the hardest battles she is ever likely to face, and she’s done it! Eight years, eight years was how long it took to get a diagnosis. Jaymee will never get those years of her life back, those years that should have been spent enjoying motherhood but instead were full of battles. Battles with herself, doctors, and those she loved. She knew in her heart all those years ago that Postnatal Depression didn’t fit with the way she was feeling. Jaymee knew the doctors weren’t doing all they could for her, and she often wonders how her life would have turned out if she had just shouted a little louder, pushed a little harder. 

If you are struggling with mental or emotional problems Jaymee has this message. “Please , please, don’t suffer in silence, seek help if you need it and keep going until you’re listened to. Mental Illness is not a weakness, from mine I found my strength”

Jaymee bravely decided to share her story on Facebook recently. Had she not many of her friends, myself included, would never have known of the struggles she’s faced. Mental Illness is perhaps one of the truest forms of invisible illness their is.  So easily hidden, and so often seen as taboo, people can be left helplessly floundering, battling their demons alone, for years on end. Jaymee says that if even one person can be helped by reading her story, then it was worth it to share. To Jaymee, I say thank you. Thank you for letting us in, and for trying to help those in need. I too hope your story helps others, I believe it will. 


If you are struggling with Mental Illness advice can be found at Mind.org. This post was adapted from Jaymees original Facebook post.