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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 May 2007, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Woman backs arthritis jobs drive
Claire Tattersall
Ms Tattersall has backed calls for government-funded help
A Pembroke woman who lost her job and home as a result of rheumatoid arthritis is backing a new campaign to get fellow sufferers back to work.

Claire Tattersall, 31, was just 14 when she started suffering from joint pains, but doctors did not diagnose her illness until her mid 20s.

Her condition meant she had to give up work soon after.

Figures from the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) show 29% of sufferers have to give up work early.

It has called on the Government to help the 600,000 people in the UK who suffer from the disease continue in employment.

Ms Tattersall said: "When it started I was just feeling poorly all the time. When I was in school I was quite sporty and I would put it down to maybe overdoing it a bit.

I literally could not manage to move the quilt cover off myself in the morning
Claire Tattersall

"I kept having to go for tests and it was thought it might be stress, narcolepsy or that it might be ME, but nothing ever came back conclusive.

"I did not show any signs of swelling at all and I think that was a factor in the delay."

When she left school she started working with adults with extreme severe challenging behaviour.

"I would finish at 4pm and have to go straight home to sleep and then when I woke up in the morning I would be aching.

Marriage break-down

"Then when I woke up on Valentine's Day in 2002 I literally could not manage to move the quilt cover off myself in the morning."

She said she was unable to return to work and at the same time her marriage broke down, meaning she was unable to meet her mortgage payments.

She was referred to a specialist hospital where she was finally diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

She is now training to get back into work and helps out as a counsellor and with media work for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society.

"When it happened to me there was no-one I could talk to. Other sufferers were either really young kids or older people - there was no-one of my age," she added.

Treatment

The results of a survey released by the NRAS on Tuesday show nearly a third (29.3%) of people with the disease were forced to give up work early because of their condition, while 86% experienced or expected barriers to staying in work from their employers.

It is calling on the Government, the NHS and healthcare professionals to help people stay in work and access treatment.

It wants funded activities to make people aware of their legal rights in the workplace and ensure newly-diagnosed patients are better informed about treatment they are entitled to.

Ailsa Bosworth, the charity's chief executive, said: "People with rheumatoid arthritis want to stay in work and remain independent, but many are fearful of losing their jobs and are all to often shunted onto incapacity benefit."


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