A MUM has revealed how a condition controlled her work life.
Claire Wilson, who has ulcerative colitis, spoke out as employers were today urged to increase understanding of sufferers.
The 54-year-old mum-of-two, from Horden, made the difficult decision to leave her part-time cleaning role after her condition deteriorated to the point where she had to undergo an operation.
The surgery removed her colon and part of her small intestine, and inserted a stoma to allow waste to be carried out of the body.
Her recovery – complicated by septicemia, peritonitis and a blockage – has taken more than two-and-a-half years.
Claire had difficulties with her mobility and could not lift, making even basic chores impossible, but believes the operation has transformed her life and given her the freedom she never previously had.
While her bosses were understanding and kept open her job for more than a year, they explained the situation could not continue indefinitely.
Claire said she had to deal with comments from some colleagues who did not understand her condition and doubted how unwell she was.
She has since led talks to community groups to help people find out about the illness.
Crohn’s and Colitis UK say her experience is not unusual, with the average retirement age of people with the conditions being 50.
It is campaigning to increase employment opportunities for people with inflammatory bowel disease.
Claire, who is married to Jim, 55, who works for Teesside chemical firm Huntsman, said: “Employers do need to be more understanding.
“When you go to the doctors, there are lots of pamphlets about cancer and so on, but there’s nothing at all about this.
“There are also sorts of reasons why ulcerative colitis can affect you.
“I got to work some times and I was half-dead.”
Claire says her recovery has been helped by her family, including children James, 34, and Jennifer Dixon, 31. Their understanding of her illness, which was diagnosed in 2000, and the stoma – which she affectionately calls Brian – has been strengthened by the operation.
Claire, who once feared leaving her home because of the difficulties caused by ulcerative colitis, wishes she had undergone surgery sooner.