First Steps Women’s Centre

Baby Loss Awareness Week runs from 9-15 October. Last year, we featured a blog entitled I Am One in Four by Alison Carr. That’s because one in every four pregnancies in the UK end in miscarriage. Alison suffered not just one miscarriage. In total, she had five!

Having three or more miscarriages is termed recurrent miscarriage and affects one in every 100 pregnancies. In her blog, Alison spoke movingly about her ‘grief, fear, pain, jealously, self-recrimination and self-loathing’ which grew with every miscarriage, and of the lack of specialist bereavement counselling to help her come to terms with her losses.

She also talked about the lack of specialist care for women in Northern Ireland who experience recurrent miscarriage, and having to make multiple trips to London to attend a specialist clinic. Alison is one of the lucky ones. Some women are never offered referrals to specialist clinics. Alison got the diagnosis and treatment she needed and, today, she is the proud mother of two girls.

Ashley Clarke, a carer, full time student, volunteer and trustee of Huntington’s Disease Association Northern Ireland (HDANI) describes her experience of caring for her dad who has Huntington’s.

When I was 14 years old my father was diagnosed with Huntington's, an incurable brain disease that slowly breaks down the centre of the brain causing a gradual loss of control over movement, speech, behaviour and thoughts. 

At the age of 16 I became his carer along with my brother Ryan. Two years is not much time to adjust and face the harsh reality of HD. From then I have had to watch him change every day as the HD mask takes over his whole body, mind and mannerisms.

There are currently around 657,000 people from Northern Ireland on the NHS Organ Donation Register, that’s around 36% of the total population.

5th September 2016, sees the start of Organ Donation Week, a time when the organ donation and transplant community raise awareness of organ donation.

There are many cultural and religious reasons why people would choose to donate their organs or not. It is and should remain a decision based on individual values and beliefs.

While it’s a personal choice, and regardless of the outcome of the decision, its important family and friends are aware of a person’s wishes. We know there is a willingness to discuss dying and related issues, because people openly share their views and experiences with us when we meet them in community halls, shopping centres, cafes and other places across Northern Ireland.

People have told us that information on practical issues such as writing a will, making funeral arrangements, advice on insurance,

There is no doubt that with an ageing population, the pressures on healthcare services will continue to grow, so more effective and efficient ways of using resources and delivering services in the future need to be adopted.

The Health and Social Care Board launched a campaign called Wipe out waste. Keep your eyes peeled for it throughout September! They say £18 million is wasted in Northern Ireland every year from medications not being used or thrown away. They’re encouraging people to help reduce waste, by checking their stock before re-ordering and letting their doctor or pharmacist know if they think they are getting too much.

It’s interesting to know the cost of medicine waste and what it could be spent on, if saved. For example, the Health and Social Care Board say that £18 million is the equivalent to 19,000 cataract operations; 700 community nurses; or 1200 treatments for breast cancer. Do you think having information like this can make a difference to people’s actions in Northern Ireland?

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Courtesy of Patient & Client Council

Sarcomas are rare cancers that develop in the supporting or connective tissues of the body such as muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, blood vessels and fat. Paul’s Campaign started in 2011, after a young man called Paul from Derry, passed away, following a battle with Sarcoma. Lisa-Marie Holden, from Paul’s Campaign explains more.

Pauls’ Campaign was created to bring about greater awareness of Sarcoma.  Our aim from the very beginning is to educate health professionals in this field of cancer, and to highlight the signs and symptoms of Sarcoma among members of the public.

We held our first awareness walk in August 2011.  It started off at Sainsbury’s, along the Quay, over the Craigavon Bridge, over the Foyle bridge and down to DaVinci’s, where Paul had worked as a chef.  Since starting this walk, it has grown every year.  After the first year, we decided to hold the walk in July, as that’s Sarcoma Awareness Month and walk along the Derry walls in the heart of the City.

With more than 86,000 people in Northern Ireland living with Diabetes, we’ve been gathering patients’ views on the condition and their hopes for services in the future. Deepak Samson explains more.

‘Setting the record straight’ is the theme for Diabetes Awareness Week and that’s exactly what we’ve been helping people to do.

Over the past few months we’ve been talking to diabetic patients to understand what’s working well for them and how they feel services could be improved.

Patients really value the care they receive from staff, and acknowledge the pressure they are often under.

We’re living longer, which is something to celebrate, however, living longer, can bring more health complications.

This week is Dementia Awareness Week, and a lot has been happening to raise awareness of this condition.

Dementia mostly affects people over the age of 70 and is uncommon in people under the age of 60 but it can appear, though rarely, in people in their 40s or younger.  At the Balmoral Show last week, we heard from many hundreds of people who highlighted ‘care of the elderly’ as something they’d like our decision makers to focus on.

We all know someone who has dementia: a neighbour, a friend, a colleague, a family member.  A report from the Department of Health states that around23,000 people in Northern Ireland will be living with dementia, by 2017.

Coeliac disease is a complete intolerance to anything made from wheat, barley and rye. Tina, who has coeliac disease, shares her experience of being in hospital and coping with the limited food available.

“If you have a life-threatening allergy or severe intolerance then it is not a matter of pot luck when it comes to hospital food.

I was recently hospitalised following a gall bladder attack. After pain relief, a change to another hospital and the subsiding of symptoms, I realised I was hungry.

Derek and Tina Thompson

Nursing staff were very helpful in trying to accommodate me, and after much checking, in the end, given the options available, I was offered yoghurt and jelly. 

Affecting around 3,600 people in Northern Ireland, Parkinson's is a degenerative neurological condition, for which there currently is no cure. The main symptoms of the condition are tremor, slowness of movement and rigidity. Caroline McEvoy from Parkinson’s UK tells us more.

‘Our mission is to find a cure and improve life for everyone affected by Parkinson's through research, information, support and campaigning.

During Parkinson’s Awareness Week (18-24 April), we will be raising awareness of Parkinson’s and the services the charity provides to anyone who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

How Was Your Meal?
Hot, and sometimes frozen, meals can be delivered to people’s homes, as part of their domiciliary care package, also known as 'meals on wheels'.