A man who battled the debilitating condition ME for more than 20 years has spoken of his long fight back to health.
Jonathan Burrell hopes his story may help inspire others struggling with the illness. The 52 year old had been forced to give up playing sports and could not hold down a job during his worst years. ME patients can experience disabling and profound physical and mental exhaustion, accompanied by a wide range of other symptoms. These include feeling ill and flu-like, muscle, joint and nerve pain, headaches, recurrent sore throat, disturbed balance, poor concentration, sensitivity to light and noise and disturbed sleep.
Mr Burrell, from Hove, was diagnosed in 1989 and ended up house-bound and back living with his parents because he needed so much care. Mr Burrell said, “The days seemed endless. What I missed most was participatory sport which had always been a large part of my life. Counselling and anti-depressants helped me through these early years, as minor improvements were always followed by the inevitable relapse.”
By the mid-1990s the relapses became less severe and Mr Burrell moved into his own flat. He joined the Sussex ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Society and started attending the newly-formed yoga for ME class at Cornerstone Community Centre in Church Road, Hove. Mr Burrell said, “This proved to be a real turning point. Yoga was the first form of physical activity I was able to do without suffering a negative reaction. As the years passed by, my stamina and strength began to return. From yoga, I progressed first to playing tennis and golf and then to my real passions, football and running.” Mr Burrell returned to Sunday league football and at 50 he joined an athletics club in Lewes. He now runs 35 miles a week, races for the club and has won County Championship medals. He is also back in full-time employment as manager of the Cornerstone Centre.
Sussex & Kent ME Society chairman Colin Barton said, “in areas such as ours where there are specialist NHS services people are being diagnosed sooner and doctors giving good early advice more often. However we are also aware of a number of the severely affected for whom things will probably take longer. We are seeing with ME/CFS as with most conditions that it makes sense to intervene earlier rather than later to prevent chronicity and severity of illness. Although the situation is far from perfect things are improving and it’s good to see some people moving on to lead active lives again.”