Welcome LSBU student Ellen Reed-Walsh

A little update…

There are many career goals I set for myself when I started out as an OT. One I never really thought I’d accomplish was to be a practice educator. Who would want a virtual placement with someone who works 15 hours a week from bed? Well, fast forward one pandemic later and it seems rather a lot of people now want virtual placements.

For all healthcare students the pandemic has caused huge problems. Those students with their own health problems have been faced with some really tough decisions. I’d like to take this moment to offer a huge round of applause to a few specific groups of people. Firstly, placement teams across the country coming up with increasingly inventive ways to help get students the experience they. Secondly, Placement Educators who have found space and time for students when the healthcare system is stretched to the max. Though I’m not a part of the NHS I do empathise with my peers and colleagues. You’ve kept going despite insurmountable pressures and challenges. Thank you. I see you.

The pandemic has caused a little change for me too. Huge props to Addz and Mum for doing all the ‘out of the house’ things I’ve not been able to do. For disabled people, especially those who are clinically vulnerable, the last 12 months have been pretty scary. Our support networks and routines have crumbled. We often found ourselves without the medical support we’re used to as increasing amounts of the NHS was redeployed.

I (perhaps stupidly) chose this time to start the process of returning to Uni for my MSc. I’ve been working harder and longer hours than ever before keep my waiting list under 2 months. While squeezing in webinars, conferences and 3000 word essays. I’ve had to give myself ‘self compassion and self-care’ pep-talks a few times more than usual. Even the most settled and organised of my ‘expert patients’ has needed to tinker with their coping strategy tool kits.

Despite all of this I find myself more passionate and engaged with my work than ever before. So without further-a-do please give a warm welcome to my first OT student.

Ellen Reed-Walsh.

“I’m a final year Student OT studying at LSBU. I’m 44 years old and originally from Oklahoma. I’ve lived in the UK nearly 17 years (also lived in Australia, Dublin, and Chicago).

I’m married and the mother of 2 kiddos (one neurodiverse child, one neurotypical). I have Aspergers Syndrome, ADHD, and DCD, though none of these were diagnosed until I was an adult. I lived with congenital (unspecified) hypermobility which specifically affects my pelvic joints and spine. I was born with hip dysplasia, was slow to walk and develop gross motor skills, and was diagnosed with severe scoliosis age 6. This lead to major medical intervention eventually resulting in spinal fusion surgery.

Unbeknownst to myself or my family, I also had Aspergers. This compounded the psychological effect of these conditions and left me singled out as a “weirdo”. Post surgery, once I was able to return to school at the age of 14, I developed depression.

By the age of 21 I was no longer able to “work on my feet” due to pain. This motivated me to train as a graphic artist so I could get off my feet while working. In my late teens the depression progressed to bipolar disorder, though I was not diagnosed until much later. This began a 3 year journey of medication, education and therapy to stabilise my mental health.

I eventually ended up working in disability insurance. This required me to learn about a wide range of medical conditions and procedures that can prevent people from working.

This experience combined with my own personal health experiences led me to work in healthcare. I was unsure of the exact profession, though so started with psychology. After moving to the UK and becoming a mother, my healthcare study and career plans got put on hold. I had worked for 3 local authorities and in social care by the time I felt ready to return to university. I decided that Occupational Therapy was the right profession for me. It’s something I can bring a lot of personal expertise to.

By the age of 40 I had developed arthritis throughout my entire spine. I experience painful instability throughout my spine and pelvis. As a result, I live with chronic pain and severely impaired mobility. I also developed fibromyalgia and an assortment of other conditions.

On the positive side, my experiences have given me the insight and determination to help other people. Especially those living with autism, mental illness, and chronic conditions that limit their daily life.

Beyond my journey to become an OT, my personal interests run to the creative. I love music – making and listening to, I sing and play the ukulele. I’ve always had a creative streak and take great pride in my fine motor skills and clever fingers. I have enjoyed textile arts for as long as I can remember. I’m currently neck deep in wool and crochet projects, which bring me great joy. When not studying or creating, I enjoy playing games on my phone, particularly Pokemon Go and puzzle games.

I am fascinated by history and the humanities. I learn as much as I can about every culture I come across. People, and what makes them who they are, as individuals and as a collective, fascinate me.”

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