A Burton midwife has been receiving international praise for her collection of poems that she wrote after being diagnosed with Young-onset Parkinson’s and while working on the frontline during Covid-19.
Clare Gill, who is a Ward Co-Ordinator on Wards 11 and 12 at Queen’s Hospital Burton, received her diagnosis at the age of 45 after displaying symptoms including a debilitating tremor in her right hand and not being able to keep up with her family on walks.
When Clare was first diagnosed, she said the news was devastating: “This prognosis that I was given was in my eyes a death sentence so I went through a real period of grieving for around 18 months. The condition is degenerative, it gets worse with time and all I could think was that I was going to have to give up my job.
“I was told that I had ’10 good years left’ and I just thought that isn’t enough.”
Young-onset Parkinson’s tends to become apparent in before the age of 50 and affects patients in the same way as Parkinson’s disease, but the degeneration of the patient’s condition tends to be much slower.
After initially struggling to come to terms with her diagnosis, Clare decided to use it as a positive force in her life and says that it has inspired her to do things she may never have done prior.
She added: “I started a Maternity Support Worker in 2007 before qualifying as a Midwife five years later, but I’d never have gone for my job as Ward Co-Ordinator if it wasn’t for being told I had Parkinson’s.
“I would also never have started lots of creative things like taking up art and writing poems, and now I’ve published a book of them and I’m working on a second!”
It was at the peak of the pandemic in 2020 that Clare decided to write a poem each day in support of Parkinson’s Awareness Month to see if she could raise money for the Parkinson’s Foundation.
She said: “I wrote something every day for 30 days and managed to raise £500 but then the words were just flowing so I continued writing, threw them all together in a book and managed to get it published. Now it’s been read by people around the world, including in America, France, Portugal and Ecuador.
“It’s really humbling. I’ve always written blogs as a way to help me process my thoughts and emotions but I thought the girls on the ward were just being kind by buying copies of the book; it’s gone far beyond that now though!”
Her collection of poems is titled ‘Always Look For Rainbows’, as Clare says there is reason to be positive no matter what life throws your way. This was also particularly pertinent when she was working during the peak of the pandemic, despite being advised to shield.
Clare explained: “Ever since my diagnosis, I don’t deliver babies on the ward any more but take more of a role with a team of Co-Ordinators working together to support the Ward Manager to ensure a high level of care if delivered to our mums and babies. When Covid hit, I was told I wasn’t more at risk of catching the virus, but that I’d be more adversely affected if I did catch it.
“Since my diagnosis I’ve only worked on non-Covid wards and I’m not able to deliver babies any more, I still absolutely adore my job.
“By not being there, I wasn’t going to be of any help to anyone and I just wanted to be there to support my colleagues.”
Now, Clare is in the process of putting the finishing touches on her second book which will look at various aspects of life and health conditions, as well as including some new poems, and how to find the positive in every situation.
She said: “The book will cover lots of things, including Parkinson’s, Autism and having children and I’m hoping to have it ready by the end of 2021.”
Profits from the sales of Clare’s book are being donated to charity and to support staff wellbeing at UHDB as a thank you from Clare to everyone who has supported her throughout her journey.