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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 10:28 GMT
'I was on the brink of suicide'
By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Samantha Miller and Mushroom
'I felt there was no way out'
To look at Samantha Miller now it is hard to believe that her ME left her feeling so desperate she seriously considered taking her own life.

Today she gets pleasure from living, her work, and walking her whippet dog Mushroom.

But just 18 months ago, Samantha, from Hackney, London, found each day so mentally and physically draining and so without point that she begged her sister and boyfriend to help her to die.

"When it first started off I was feeling fluey and had to take six months off work as a teacher.

Infection

"They told me to rest and I started to recover. But then I had a back operation and picked up a hospital acquired infection, and this pushed my body all over the place.

"I could not do anything, all I could do was lie in bed. I couldn't even listen to the radio, I just lay there, but ironically I also had chronic insomnia.

Life was so intolerable and this is coming from a person who loves life
Samantha Miller

"I had 90% decided to kill myself as it looked like there was no way out.

"Life was so intolerable, and this is coming from a person who loves life."

She researched the best methods to kill herself and decided to take an overdose.

Luckily, 38-year-old Samantha was referred to a new service at Barts Hospital, London, designed to help people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) build their recovery.

"They worked with me on a graded programme. I would start doing a few minutes of exercise and then when I had mastered that I could do 10 minutes. It was a 20% increment each time. I also had cognitive behaviour therapy.

"Now I am at the point where I am doing a 30 minutes walk and a 20 minute cycle ride."

Help

Traditionally, patients were treated either by a psychiatrist or a physician.

The system at Barts offers an integrated "mind and body" approach involving physicians and psychiatrists, who work alongside psychologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

They also offer a home service for those too ill to make it to the hospital.

The exact cause of CFS/ME is unknown, although the illness often starts after a severe viral infection, such as glandular fever.

In the past some doctors have been sceptical as to whether CFS/ME existed as a real disease but this was resolved in 2002 when a report from the Chief Medical Officer in England, Sir Liam Donaldson, concluded that it was a genuine and disabling condition.

Georgina Twomey
Georgina has started her degree course

Dr Maurice Murphy, a specialist in infection and infectious diseases and clinical co-leader of the new service, said: "We have become a dynamic hub of clinical expertise, with a well equipped large team combining physical and psychological medicine and allied professionals.

"In the past there has been a lack of services and scepticism amongst the medical profession of this illness. However this commitment shows that we have moved well beyond that point."

Service

Professor Peter White, an expert in psychological medicine and clinical co-leader, said: "The unique part of this service is that we have combined together to provide a truly integrated service for patients who have a misunderstood yet debilitating illness.

"Through our centre patients and their carers will now be given a proper diagnosis and the chance of recovery."

The CFS and ME Service at Bart's Hospital has been trialled since April 2005 before being officially launched last month.

In the past year it has treated more than 600 patients and expects around 250 new referrals every 12 months. It is one of the largest centres in the UK with over 20 professional staff.

Another to benefit from it is 20-year-old Georgina Twomey.

This month she starts her three year history degree course - something she could never have envisaged four years ago when her ME left her to weak to study for her exams.

"I did my AS levels and was going back to do my A Levels but I had to leave.

"It was a really tough decision, but I knew I had to do it.

"I could do nothing. I got so desperate that once I ended up in A&E desperately asking for help. It was not that I wanted to hurt myself or die, but life was getting too tough for me."

Like Samantha, Georgina was taught how to rebuild both her stamina and her life and now she feels fit enough to embark on the next chapter.

"I am not only starting something new, but I am also moving away from home. I am not 100% better now, but I am getting there."




SEE ALSO
Fresh approach to ME urged
16 Jan 03 |  Health

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