Equipsme back-up helps Sheffield mum get back on her feet
When single parents get ill, there often aren’t a lot of good options. And when mum of two Abi Stevens, from Sheffield, was ill for more than a month, she needed some answers fast. With Equipsme’s help she managed to get them.
Abi had her first vaccine and got all the usual side effects after a few hours, including the shakes and shivers. But a week later she was one of the very few people unlucky enough to get more unusual side effects... What started as a mild ‘spacey’ feeling became a serious headache, which got so bad she was unable to work.
Abi explains: “I had this cold fire in my head that also felt like pins and needles. That same buzzing feeling went all the way down my left hand side, and my leg and my arm weren’t working properly – they felt like they belonged to someone else.
“I knew it wasn’t the sharp blinding pain that’s associated with the widely reported blood clots, but it was still very strange – and debilitating. I tried to work through it but staring at a screen all day was just impossible. It was all I could do to look after the kids, and get everyone washed and dressed and fed.
“I’ve got a six year old and a nine year old, and no local family support, so there’s very few options. There’s a lot of times that being a single parent sucks, but trying to do it all while ill is probably the worst.”
Abi eventually called 111, and over several days was sent to an out of hours GP, her own GP, and eventually A&E, where they did blood tests to rule out clotting.
“They were great at A&E, but when they’d established I wasn’t dying, they obviously wanted to get rid of me!” says Abi. “That was fine, but I really wasn’t, and I still didn’t have any answers. I was also getting worse – and I’d already had nearly two weeks off work. That’s when my boss told me it was time to use my Equipsme plan.”
Abi works at Zuke Communications as a content and copywriter, part of a two-woman PR band. Equipsme was part of the package when she started in Spring 2020.
“It hadn’t occurred to me to use my Equipsme plan,” says Abi “probably because I wasn’t thinking straight! But that afternoon I made an appointment with the 24/7 GP for the very next day. They gave me an open referral to a neurologist, and just a few days later I had an appointment at a nearby private hospital. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to arrange, or how quick it was.”
After seeing the neurologist, Abi was sent for an MRI of her head and spine a few days later, all on her Equipsme plan.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been that ill for that long, and I’ll be honest that I was actually getting quite worried about myself. I think as single parent you worry more about what happens to you - and to your kids if you can’t look after them. By that time I’d also got a rash all down one side which was needle sharp, and turned out to be shingles. It just felt like my whole body was letting me down and there wasn’t any help.
“There certainly wasn’t much sympathy from my children, who in my experience express their worry by being more challenging than usual! They haven’t had a babysitter in 18 months and hated me going for appointments. My little one was the worst, because she kept on saying she wanted the old mummy back before the headache, because I couldn’t play or go to the park or do any of the things we’d usually do. It was awful.
“Having the power to do something about all that felt amazing. I could pick when and where to see someone around the kids, and get seen fast. The wait for an MRI on the NHS would have been several weeks, and I was already at the end of my rope. I need to be able to work. I need to be able to look after my children and run my house. There just isn’t any alternative.”
Fortunately, Abi’s MRI came back clear, and she was prescribed some medication to deal with her symptoms. She continues: “Paracetamol and ibuprofen weren’t even hitting the sides, so to get some respite from the pain was brilliant. I could still feel the sensation in my head, but it was like someone had switched off the pain. It was also just a real relief to know there wasn’t anything sinister going on. Gradually my left-hand side came back, the fire in my head became manageable, and my shingles rash cleared up.”
Abi’s reaction to the AstraZeneca was unusual and unpleasant, but not medically dangerous. “One of the good things about seeing an expert was that I got good advice and reassurance about what to do next,” says Abi.
“So in the end I did go and have my second jab. Covid IS dangerous, and this time I knew what to expect from the side effects and how to manage them.
“I feel really lucky that I feel better – life is amazing when it doesn’t hurt! I’m lucky it wasn’t more serious, I’m lucky to have such a sympathetic and supportive workplace - and I’m particularly lucky that I had Equipsme as back-up. It was there exactly when I needed it, and did exactly what it was supposed to do. I got help, I got peace of mind, I got back to work – and I got back to being a proper Mum.”