The ME/CFS Ghost » Blog Archives

Author Archives: Jay

About Jay

I've been an ME sufferer since 2001 and now that I am not as ill as I used to be, I share my experiences in the hope that something I say can bring someone else hope or even just so they can learn from my mistakes.

The Problem with Positive Thinking

Ever since I started to make these videos I planned on talking about this awful thing we call positive thinking. Finally I managed to not just make one video on the topic, but two. Of all the responses and comments the chronically ill get, “Be positive” has to be the one that annoys me the most! You see, I used to be a fundamentalist positive thinker – I know the mind-set and even though at the time I believed every stupid word that came out of my mouth, I now know the damage I did to myself and to others. As far as I can tell, being a positive thinker didn’t really do anything for me and it certainly didn’t prevent me from getting ill.

In the first video I look at what positive thinking should be and what it has become in our modern society. I also take a general look at why it is so flawed and is really the worst possible way we can choose to govern our emotions.

In the second video I look at the results of several studies which not only show how bad positive thinking is for us, but also the benefits of negative thinking.

Sources:

Included here are the studies I quoted in the second video.

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30 Things About My Invisible Illness

We all experience our illnesses individually and we have our own challenges and achievements. But I do find that when we start to share our experiences and stories, we begin to see that we’re not all that different from each other. This often gives us some much needed solidarity and comfort. I haven’t really talked specifically about my own story, and I will expand on this at some point, but I had been planning to complete the ’30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know’ questionnaire by Invisible Illness Week for quite some time now.

So, after a really awful start to 2016, I wasn’t in the mood to tackle a big topic for this week’s video. Instead I decided I would finally complete the questionnaire. I actually really enjoyed doing it because it helped me to understand how far I had come in the years since I first became ill. I would urge others to also complete this questionnaire. You don’t have to do it in a video format like I did, but instead you can write out your answers and post them on your blog. If you do that, please drop a link in the comments section so we can all check it out. If you don’t have somewhere to post your answers, I’m happy to post them on this site or there is another option on Invisible Illness week.

Here’s the video – if you want to subscribe to the channel, either click on ‘YouTube’ in the bottom right hand corner of the video and it will take you to YouTube where you can subscribe, or click this link and it will take you to my YouTube channel where you can also view the other videos I have made. Thank you so much for all the support and comments.

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Worst Things to Say to a Person Living with a Chronic Illness

One of the most difficult aspects of living with an invisible chronic illness like ME is the fact that people don’t understand exactly how ill you really are or they do and give the most unhelpful advice. This is something I have experienced myself and I’ve heard other sufferers say so many times.

But most of us don’t complain about it or even pull up those people even when they’re saying the most outrageous things. This is for a number of reasons from being too ill to muster the energy to do so, or just not feeling brave enough to say anything.

So I was thinking about Christmas and the holidays and how many of us must have had to interact with friends and family who just don’t understand. How many of us must have heard judgemental comments or advice all well-meaning and given in a helpful spirit, but which have left us feeling even worse?

Yes, we sound whiney and ungrateful when we complain about these comments, but that’s only because healthy people don’t understand how devastating their words can be. So to try and explain this I made this the subject of my latest video titled ‘Worst Things to Say to a Person Living with a Chronic Illness’. Please be sure to like the video and subscribe to my YouTube channel. I will be uploading every week now and I am taking requests, so if there is an aspect of living with a chronic illness that you want me to cover or even rant about, let me know and I will be happy to oblige.

Let me know in the comments below or even better on the comments section of the video, what are the worst things people have said to you. How did it make you feel to hear such things? As always thanks for all the support and encouragement – it’s what keeps me going and making these videos.

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What Do You Want in 2016?

The months seem to have rushed by since August. In almost a decade and a half of chronic illness I’ve found that even though each day will often seem to crawl by, with me crawling right behind it, the weeks, months and years tend to fly. Luckily (or is that unluckily? I have yet to figure that out) I have been extremely busy since August and so much, too much even, has been happening in my life. One thing hasn’t changed though; I still seem to be crawling behind. As I’ve not been around much I just wanted to let you know what is happening, and what you can expect. Also, I want to know what you want to read and see from me! Are there any topics you would like me to cover? Maybe there’s an issue that needs explaining, or perhaps you’d just like me to vent about something that probably bugs a lot of us, or there might even be something wonderful that you’ve found for which you are grateful. Let me know and I will do my best to cover that topic.

So where have I been and what have I been doing? I had some major changes take place in my life over summer and I’ve been adjusting to these. I was prepared for anything to happen. I didn’t want to feel stressed out about any problems that could arise nor did I want to create issues where there weren’t any, so I took on an attitude of “Just let it come; whatever happens now, I will deal with it.” I am thrilled to report that health has actually been better than it has been for a while and I’ve been happy. I think a major reason for this is that even though I had an initial panic to get moving and to do something…anything even, I actually slowed right down and gave myself the time and space to get my bearings and to make sure I was OK. I looked after myself in a way I probably hadn’t for a very long time.

I’ve loved relating to myself as an individual again. I’ve always been very independent, but I guess when you’re in a relationship and especially when you’re living with someone, you inevitably will define yourself in the terms of that relationship. There’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes it is nice to just get to know who we are and where we are in the whole scheme of things and I have definitely been doing that.

Ah, the YouTube channel. Yes, I know I put up one video and then disappeared. This was precisely what I did not want to do. I had been so organised and prepared to create videos in advance so no matter what happened with my health, there would definitely be a video out each week. Well it would appear that life had other plans for me! First I was without internet and then I had an awful chest infection. I also have had much upheaval and change. So by the time I was ready to begin uploading again, the Holiday madness had begun. I decided I would keep working on the videos and start posting them in the New Year and that is exactly what I will do. I created a short channel update video explain this:

THANK YOU FOR ALL THE LOVE AND SUPPORT!

The videos really do take up a lot of time and effort BUT they are worth it because of the response I have had from other sufferers. The way things are in my life at the moment I have to juggle a lot of balls just to survive and my life is far from certain. But one thing is certain, I will continue to make these videos for as long as possible and furthermore, I look forward to your suggestions and requests on the types of topics you would like me to cover.

Happy New Year!!

OK that’s all for now my lovelies! We survived 2015, now let’s go deal with 2016! We can do it together and even from the sanctuary of our beds.

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Video Schedule Update

What's Your Chronic Illness Story? ME

As many of you know, I have wanted to extend the writing that I do on this blog into video and after months of one thing after another getting in the way of me fulfilling that goal, I finally uploaded my first video this past Wednesday. The response has been absolutely amazing and I am so immensely touched by all the support I have received from people that have seen the video.

I plan to publish a video a week – every Wednesday for #MEAwarenessHour (for those of you that don’t know what that is, get over to Twitter between 8pm to 9pm on Wednesday evenings). But you know what they say about the best laid plans right? I am staying at my sister’s place in the countryside and her broadband is out! There is also limited mobile network coverage, so getting my next video out by Wednesday (especially when the broadband engineer is not coming out until Tuesday) is looking highly unlikely.

I intend to do what I can though and while I will be disappointed if I am unable to publish a video this week, I will still keep working on the videos and make sure that you won’t have to wait until the following Wednesday.

I’m currently sat in the lobby of a country spa hotel using the free internet, but my back is protesting so I must leave soon. I’ve tried to respond to as many comments as possible on all the various social media sites. If I missed your comment – I’m so sorry, but please be assured I will get back to you as soon as I have access to working broadband again. Once again, thank you to everyone for the amazing support and the lovely comments that I have been receiving. If you haven’t seen the video yet, here it is is:

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Over-the-Counter ME Treatments Follow Up

OTC Treatment Options for Patients with ME
This is a follow up to the poll that I posted a while back. If you haven’t already seen it and answered the questions then I would really urge you to do so by visiting Over-the-Counter ME Treatments Poll. Even if you have already taken the poll, you can go back and view the results of what other people said.

I know a lot of you have been wondering how I came up with that list of treatments. A friend who is also an ME sufferer sent me the above list as her friend, another ME sufferer, was given that list of OTC treatment options by an ME specialist at Sutton hospital. My friend and I were pretty appalled by the list. Yes, there are treatments listed on there that people may find helpful, but it’s still shocking that you’re referred to a specialist and they give you something like that. You can join any ME forum and get a similar list in just a few minutes and not have to wait to see a specialist. I must admit, that I don’t know the full treatment plan that the lady who is attending the hospital is receiving, so it’s not really fair for me to make assumptions about the medical treatment being offered to her. So I’ll stick to that one sheet of paper.

My first objection may sound really petty, especially considering the name of this blog, but ‘CFS/ME’ seemed a bit unnecessary, when ‘ME/CFS’ is most commonly used. It’s like the ME is just grudgingly tagged on to the end of CFS. Especially as further down the sheet, only ‘CFS’ is used to refer to the illness.

I have my own thoughts about the treatments suggested but these are based on my own experiments. Going by the answers people gave to my poll, the majority of the people that answered had similar results as me, but some people evidently found some help and relief where I didn’t.

The one treatment that I was really interested to try especially as I have problems with sleep disturbances in summer is Phenergan, but after going through the entire list with my pharmacist I was told that it is only available with a prescription.

So, what do you think, both about the treatments that are suggested and the fact that this sheet is being given to patients. Do you think it is a good basic guide for ME patients? The lady who was given this sheet had already tried most of them as she has been ill for well over a decade. Do you think it would make a difference to those that are newly diagnosed or is it helpful for all patients? Are there any Over-the-Counter ME Treatments that you would really recommend or dissuade people from trying?

As always, I am not doctor and these are just my own opinions, so please speak to your doctor before trying/not trying any of these.

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“If Only I Didn’t Have ME…”

When life throws you a curve ball, it's so easy to get stuck in the "if only I didn't have ME" cycle.
A few weeks ago my life took a crazy turn when the guy I was living with effectively ended things and asked me to move out. It took me a week or so to get packed up and moved out and I left last week on 26th August. This is a meaningful date for me anyway as it is my ME-versary. This 14th anniversary of the day I became ill was definitely my darkest and there were a number of things I wanted to write about a week ago, but I really was just so emotionally and physically spent, it’s taken me this long to be able to put together some thoughts. In my day to day life, I rarely think about being ill; it’s just the way things are and I get on with my daily activities (or inactivity as is sometimes the case) as best as I can, limited health and all. But it has been so difficult not to get caught in the spiral of “if only I didn’t have ME” these past few weeks.

Back in 2009 when I met the person I had been living with, I was relatively healthy and active, as I was experiencing a brief respite in the severity of my symptoms. But in 2011 I experienced a major relapse and while I have not become as ill as I was prior to 2009, I haven’t exactly been a social butterfly either. So when he cited my illness as one of the reasons he wanted to end things, I honestly could not blame him. He is turning 40 soon and is dealing with his own mid-life crisis. He wants to be more active and to do things that I guess remind him that he’s not old and past it. Having a ME ghost haunting the house can severely cramp one’s style, and I have really been very ill this past year.

Then there’s the issue of what I do now and where I’ll live as I am effectively penniless and homeless. I could move back into my parents’ house, but everything in me is against doing that. It seems like too much of a regression; I am no longer the same person I was when I lived there before. But the fact remains that this illness does severely limit the work that I do. While I work full-time hours on my writing and blogging, I am not financially solvent and so cannot support myself fully. I have to admit that this has been the cause of the biggest upset for me. There were some very dark hours when all I could think was that I will turn 40 in January and yet I have nothing. I have spent the last 14 years hampered by this illness and those were meant to be the years I created and formed my life.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. As ME sufferers, we are all too familiar with how many relationships (friends and even family members) fall by the wayside the more ill we become and are less able to interact with others. But I have been very lucky and I have people in my life who are here with me. My mum has been amazing, both in supporting me emotionally and in almost single-handedly helping me to move my belongings out. Then there is my best friend Ami. I’ve known her since we were in nursery school together. She came and got me on that last day and I have been at her house for this past week. This is despite some pretty major things going on in her life at this time too. There are other people too; my sisters and a cousin who have been offering me help in every way possible. So while I may not have much in the way of possessions, I have love and support. It is so much more than I could ever hope for.

I’ve been nursing my wounds and getting my bearings, but I will need to formulate a plan soon. For the time being I am a vagabond and totally dependent on the goodwill of my friends and family. The self-recriminations could come so easily at this time. If I was strong and healthy, perhaps I would be in a much better situation, but perhaps not. After all there are so many people in the country who, for one reason and another, are in the same boat as me. A quick glance at the news shows people who are in even worse situations than what I am in. So while I could easily be swept away in an ocean of depression and self-pity, instead I choose to be grateful for the angels in my life at this time and to look to the future. I do have one; I just need to decide what I want to do with it.

Before I wrap this up I just want to explain the image that I used for the quote. I took that when I was on one of my walks. I was so grateful that day to be able to walk, to just be alive and to be living in such a wonderful part of a city that I love. I may no longer be there, but I am grateful nonetheless.

Do you ever have “If only I didn’t have ME” moments? What gets you through those dark times?

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Feeling Ill in Summer

Feeling Really Ill in the Summer
This week summer hits London full force and while just about everyone I know is excited and looking forward to revelling in the sunshine, I have entered full scale survivalist mode. I’ve written about reverse SAD or the summer blues before, so it won’t come as a complete surprise that I don’t look forward to the summer months. However I’m currently in the middle of a relapse so I have to be really careful in the heat as it could have serious health consequences for me. I have some friends with ME who thrive during summer. This is the time of the year that they feel the best and I even have one friend who spends time abroad during winter just so her health is not adversely affected by the cold. But what about the rest of us who relapse every summer? Here I talk about how the heat and light affect me and what I do to survive.

Summer Sickness

This weekend I had to go across the road to the supermarket and pharmacy. I will be alone for the next week so can’t rely on anyone to pick up food items for me on the way home and even if a heatwave had not been forecast for the coming week, I would make sure I had everything I needed just in case I’m unable to get out. I decided I would go very early o+n Saturday morning when it would be cool and I could avoid the heat and the crowds. The trip went well and I got everything I needed. However, just after lunch I was hit with the most overwhelming fatigue. I had to lie down. I spent the rest of the day passed out in bed, barely able to get up and eat dinner. Sunday was pretty much the same. I find it impossible being out in the sun for very long. This weekend was extreme because I don’t usually get knocked out like that, especially when it is not even that hot, but here are some of the symptoms I experience after as little as 10 minutes out on an average summer day:

  • Light Sensitivity or Photophobia: Light has been an issue for me anyway, so I’ve gotten used to wearing sunglasses since I became ill in 2001. But when I’m out in the sun, brightness can be too much even with shades on. I bought a pair that is very dark and wide, so not much light gets in around the sides. However, I fear I need wraparounds.
  • Heat Intolerance: I am not good with heat. I do not even use any heating in my home during winter and find it very difficult to visit friends and family during the colder months as their homes are way too hot. So, venturing out on a summer day is a nightmare. I feel consumed by fire and my skin itches and burns. There are also a number of other symptoms which I think are related to the heat intolerance and I’ll talk about them next.
  • Dizziness and Headaches: The dizziness comes on very quickly when I’m out in the sun and I find myself feeling extremely light-headed. Even a short time in the bright light and heat causes headaches for the rest of the day.
  • Fatigue: The summer months are when my fatigue is the worst. Even if I don’t go out, the raised temperatures make me feel sluggish and weak. Everything seems harder and takes more effort and energy. I keep my flat very cool, but I feel the most comfortable in the cold.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Nausea is a real problem in summer. Sometimes, no matter what I eat, I throw up too, but luckily (if that word can be used for anything to do with illness) it doesn’t happen too often.
  • Dehydration: This may be due to the medicines I am taking, but I find no matter how much water I drink, and I do drink a lot of water, I still feel dehydrated. I’ve had diabetes checks, but I am not diabetic, nor do I have any other health issues that could be causing the thirst. I recently went to see a dental hygienist and even she commented on the dryness of my mouth.

The Sun is Good For You, Right?

No matter how ill I get in summer, I still get friends and family telling me that I need to get out in the sun. My own mother, who has seen me suffering in the heat and light, often tells me I need to move out of my basement flat to a place that has more light. After almost a decade and a half with this illness, I know what makes me worse and what makes me better. I get tired of hearing how I need more sun, more light and more heat. However, if ME has taught me anything, it is the patience to endure the unhelpful and totally unfounded recommendations of well-meaning people.

How to Survive the Summer

I try to stay cool and out of the light. I also know that it takes me a lot more effort to get the same amount done during the cooler months, so I have to be extra careful not to over-exert myself. Well, that is all I have been doing the past few years. But it is not good enough as I am forced to leave the house and it is not always easy to escape the heat.

I have recently been doing a lot of reading on adrenal fatigue and mitochondrial function. I read that many people have found that water alone is not good enough and can actual cause more problems and what is needed is electrolyte replenishment.

Do you have increased health problems in summer? What do you do to survive feeling ill in summer?

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Over-the-Counter ME Treatments Poll

Most ME sufferers will try just about anything to help with their symptoms. But are all treatments effective? What follows is a specific list of over-the-counter ME treatments and readily available therapies. Please note I am NOT recommending any of these or suggesting that any are suitable for the treatment of ME. The point of this poll is to see who has used what or would consider using them and how effective users have found these to be. I don’t want to say too much about where I got this list from or who compiled it at this point, as I don’t want to influence any answers. I promise that I will be back with more information at a later date.

It is a very straight forward poll and will only take a few minutes to complete. It is made up of two questions per treatment/therapy. The first of these asks if you have or would consider using the treatment and the second is only to be answered by those that have used the treatment. Don’t forget to hit ‘Vote’ after each question, (this also means you can answer as many questions as you are able to at any one sitting.) You can also view the results up until that point immediately after you have added your answer.

Have you used L-Carnitine for Muscle Function?

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If you have used L-Carnitine, did it help with your Muscle Function?

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Have you used D-Ribose for Muscle Function?

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If you have used D-Ribose, did it help with your Muscle Function?

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Have you used Coenzyme Q10 for Muscle Function?

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If you have used Coenzyme Q10, did it help with your Muscle Function?

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Have you used Magnesium for Muscle Function?

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If you have used Magnesium, did it help with your Muscle Function?

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Have you used Echinacea to aid Immune Function?

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If you have used Echinacea, did it help with your Immune Function?

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Have you used Ginseng to aid Immune Function?

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If you have used Ginseng, did it help with your Immune Function?

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Have you used Sublingual Vitamin B12 to aid Immune Function? (Not injections prescribed by your doctor.)

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If you have used Sublingual Vitamin B12, did it help with your Immune Function?

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Have you used Phenergan to aid with Sleep Disturbances?

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If you have used Phenergan, did it help with Sleep Disturbances?

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Have you used Melatonin to aid with Sleep Disturbances?

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If you have used Melatonin, did it help with Sleep Disturbances?

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Have you used N-acetylcysteine?

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If you have used N-acetylcysteine, did it help?

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Have you used Tocotrienol?

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If you have used Tocotrienol, did it help?

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Have you used Mindfulness Meditation to aid with Deep Relaxation and/or Pain Management?

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If you have used Mindfulness Meditation, did it help?

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Have you used Abdominal Breathing to aid with Relaxation and Pain Management?

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If you have used Abdominal Breathing, did it help?

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Have you used Graded Exercise Therapy?

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If you have used Graded Exercise Therapy, did it help?

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Thank you for taking part in this poll. As promised, I will be back with more details about why I asked these questions. I’m sorry for being so deliberately vague, but I really want to get a more representative viewpoint before I go ahead and reveal more. You may be surprised by where I got this list from and who has compiled it, so be sure to check back.

In the meantime, please feel free to share any further thoughts about these or other over-the-counter treatments in the comments section.

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Was “Fear of Autism” the Issue?

Or a situation handled poorly by mother and flight attendant?

Was "Fear of Autism" the Issue? Or a situation handled poorly by mother and flight attendant?

A few days ago I saw a video of a family being escorted off a plane by police. The title of the video was ”Fear of Autism” Family Removed from United Airlines Flight. I really felt for the family; it can’t have been nice to be asked to leave and then to have other passengers filming the scene. This is the original video that I watched:

I wanted to know what had happened. Why would people have been scared of an autistic child? So I found this news report with an interview with the mother, Dr Deborah Beegle. She explains that there was an issue with the flight providing a hot meal, which is what Juliette, her daughter needed. After much discussion with the flight crew about purchasing a hot meal from first class, she eventually managed to get one and her daughter was fine after that. But, the flight made an unscheduled stop and the family was asked to leave the flight. I could really feel for the mother and understand her frustration at what she feels is discrimination against her child, however as I was watching the interview, there is a statement that the mother makes which made me think what she said to the flight attendant may have been more of an issue than her child’s autism. Take a look at the video and see what you think, the statement is at around 02:14.

I am an ME sufferer and so I can totally relate to how damaging and hurtful the ignorance of society can be to people with illnesses that are so misunderstood. We get called lazy, like we have a choice not to be so debilitated, and in the same way these poor autistic children get called spoilt brats when they have no choice in the way that they react and respond to situations. I have people within my extended family who are autistic and my sister has also worked extensively with autistic children and their families. These kids are not playing up, but rather some like Juliette, cannot verbalise agitation from hunger and they have specific dietary requirements. I looked through the comments section of online news articles about this incident and I was pretty disgusted by some of the awful comments made about the child and about how she is just a spoilt brat. I totally disagree with those kinds of statements.

However, having said all that, I also don’t think the issue here is the child but rather her mother and the flight attendant. Before everyone jumps down my throat for being unkind, I would like to explain why I think this. The mother has posted her own account of the incident on Facebook and I’m basing the following opinions on her statement.

The Mother’s Mistake

I am an adult with more than one chronic illness and I have special dietary requirements. More embarrassingly, I can also have urgent toilet needs and I need to eat at specific times. Any trip that I make, and I mean any, from a short trip to another part of the city to longer car journeys and flights, has to be carefully planned. The outbound flights are usually easier because I have everything I need at home, so it is easy enough to pack up a meal or two. The inbound flights are much harder because it may not be so easy to get everything that is needed. The Beegle family was on their way back from a Disney vacation, so I can understand it may not have been so easy for them to have everything that Juliette needed. Juliette cannot make the kinds of decisions and choices that I can, but her mother who is responsible for her care sure can. This is what she had to say:

“ My family were on our way home from Disney World. I asked the flight attendant if she had any hot food (Juliette will not eat cold food and had refused her dinner prior to the flight). We had a back pack of snacks but she did not want what we had. The attendant sold me chicken sandwich but it was not hot and Juliette would not eat. The flight attendant said that is all we have. I asked if there was some hot food in First Class. It was a very long flight and I wanted her to get something in her system. The flight attendant went to ask and a male flight attendant in First Class. He came back to tell me that they could not serve the hot food from First Class because we were in economy. I offered to buy the rice they had. He said no. For 40 minutes, I kept trying to think of something that they had that she would eat. He told me no every time. I finally, told him that I am platinum on United thinking he might help. He said No. I again asked if he could make an exception for our daughter who faces autism. He said, no he could not give her the rice from first class. I asked if I could get some chips or something salty for her. He said they had no chips. Juliette was beginning to cry. Frustrated I said, after she has a melt down and tries to scratch in frustration, will you help her then? He said he would see what he could do. He came back scowled at me and gave her a hot meal. I thanked him and offered to pay for it. He did not answer and went back to First Class. i>

I understand that it can’t be easy to always predict how Juliette will react or what she will need, but the mother says herself that her daughter had refused dinner prior to the flight. Surely at that point she would have known that at some point during the flight her daughter was going to feel hungry and would probably need something hot. Also, she has a back pack full of snacks, but not a bag of chips? I swear to you I am not trying to pick on the mother, but I do feel she needs to take some responsibility for not being better prepared. But hey, she’s human, and it happens, especially when you’re rushing about taking care of a child and trying to catch a flight, so she was unable to buy something that she could have asked the cabin crew to warm up for her. Also, I think she was getting frustrated with the lack of assistance from the flight attendant, and that is understandable too as I do think he could have done more to resolve the issue, so I believe she chose the wrong words when she said “after she has a melt down and tries to scratch in frustration, will you help her then?”. Now she probably meant that her daughter would scratch herself rather than scratch anyone around her, but what Dr Beegle effectively did with this statement is let the flight attendant know that her daughter could get violent if she does not get what she needs. The flight attendant may know zero about autism, but he has to trust that this mother knows her daughter.

United Airlines Flight Crew

You have got to believe that there has to have been a better way for the cabin crew to have dealt with this situation. Cabin crew are like people in any line of work; you’ll get some that are helpful and just brilliant at their jobs and others that have become jaded and annoyed with the troublesome customers/passengers. I have needed help with wheelchairs and walking aids due to my limited mobility and in the same trip I was brought to tears by the kindness of cabin crew members as well as the complete callous lack of care I received in the same trip. We don’t know the flight attendant’s side of the encounter as he hasn’t written a Facebook post as far as I can tell. But there has to have been a better way for him to have dealt with the mother of an autistic child. You get the impression (from her statement admittedly) that her request for a first class meal is what got his back up. The pilot’s decision to make the unscheduled stop and offload the family has to have been based on the flight attendant’s account of the incident. Also, the mother says Juliette ate and was watching Pocahontas when we heard the flight attendant say, “We will be making an unexpected landing in Salt Lake due to a passenger in the back having issues.” We were in the front of the plane and wondering what was going on. The plane landed and the flight attendant asked if there was a medical doctor on board. A man came forward two rows in front of us. The man there said, “I am fine. I do not need a doctor.” The door opened and two paramedics came to the man two rows ahead of us. He said again said he was fine. The paramedics left him and came to my row and said, “Everything okay here?” Confused, I said, “yes.” The paramedic asked if Juliette was okay. I said, “she’s fine.” Did she scratch someone? Puzzled I said, “no.” So did someone else need a doctor on the flight? Had there been a report that a passenger had been scratched?

The Need for More Awareness

I agree with Deborah Beegle; there does need to be more awareness among flight attendants on how to deal with families that have members who have special medical requirements. In A Letter to JetBlue From the Mom of a Child With Autism a mother is so grateful for the help and attention they received during a flight. United Airlines may want to pay attention. Someone reading this may wonder why I went to so much effort to point fingers at a mother doing her best to care for her autistic child and a flight attendant. I assure you, that is not my intention. Rather, I feel that while it is important to raise awareness about illnesses and conditions that are so misunderstood and that affect a substantial number of people, cases like this can actual bring negative attention to the cause. The mother may have ten pages of statements saying Juliette was not a threat to anyone, but any lawsuit she brings about may show that it was her own behaviour in the situation that escalated the problem rather than anything her daughter did. When you make the whole thing about autism, rather than about some really bad communication between a passenger and a flight attendant, it may draw at people’s heart strings, but it is not accurate and you actually risk further discrimination and misunderstanding. A quick look at the comments left on reports of this case, even though the press has largely been sympathetic to the mother, illustrates my point, especially in the comments from other parents of autistic children who do not agree with Deborah Beegle’s actions. In fact there are wars being fought in the comments sections of various sites that have reported this story with people disapproving of the mother’s actions and others accusing them of being heartless. Many said they would never fly with United Airlines, while others said they would definitely fly with United now as they take security so seriously.

So what do you think? Whatever your views, please be nice and understand the viewpoints of others.

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