How I'm Balancing School With My Chronic Health Conditions
I have always been very fortunate that my school has been very supportive of my copious amounts of hospital appointments. Every week on a Monday morning, I would go up to the sixth form office and hand in my letters for that week, informing them of what days I was missing at what time, which hospital I was going to and what treatment I was going to have. It got to a point where it seemed like my teacher and mum were pen pals writing to each other each week.
Luckily, the majority of my appointments have been on an outpatient basis so I have not had to miss massive chunks; however, it can be exhausting traveling to and from different appointments. I think my record was 14 different appointments in one week! The time where I did have an inpatient stay at Great Ormond Street Hospital, it was the week before my AS Levels. To say the least, I was very stressed. Missing school, going into the hospital and then exams the week after! But I was able to cope through the support of many people.
I think that having support from other people is probably one of the most important things for keeping up with school when you are in the hospital so much. First, my teachers made sure they sent me all the work I missed and were available to email to answer any questions. Secondly, the hospital staff always made sure I had time to revise in my room and one of the student nurses helped explain some math. Lastly, and most important to me, were my friends and family. I video-called my friends during the evenings and they kept me up to date with the latest gossip from school. I will never forget the time when I was speaking to my friend and had to get a blood test. The nurse said I could carry on speaking to him but then I passed out…gave him a little bit of a fright!
Usually, I really enjoy school. For me, keeping up with work has always been a distraction to everything else that is going on. I have never wanted any of my health issues to prevent me from doing well. I don’t see why I should ever be limited to the things I am able to achieve just because I experience symptoms that other people my age don’t have. Having this attitude has meant I have been able to get into my dream degree at one of the best universities in the UK. Although some young people have symptoms that are not considered normal, I believe it is important we still get to experience things other kids our age get to do, even if it is just attending a hospital school or going to the hospital shop with some friends because unfortunately, this is what some children are limited to.
I have always found it hard explaining to my friends why I have yet again missed the group presentation, or why I wasn’t able to go to someone’s birthday party, or why I miss lots of lessons. As time went on they became more understanding, so if you are in this position, give it time. They are your friends – they want to support you as much as you can, they just might not know how. So give them a hint! Don’t be ashamed to ask for more help. My school is really understanding and have given me rest breaks in exams, allowed me to leave lessons if I need a break and my head of year meets with me regularly to check my progress both inside and outside of school. It’s hard being different from everyone else and having to monitor my health, but I got used to it very quickly and it always shocks me how understanding people are. There are also some perks, such as using the lift at school!
Obviously, school is important, but your health is even more important and should be your main focus because you will be able to have increased success in school with better health. Also remember that while school is important, so is a social life, so even keeping up with your friends might make you feel better.
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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem.