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I Couldn't Get Out Of Bed For Three Years
Spending three years as a complete recluse; unable to get out of bed or perform the simplest task, Steve Morgan is turning his life around. SARAH JONES reports.
FOR three years Steve Morgan was bedridden, a prisoner of an illness that had already robbed him of his marriage, career and social life.
With no income, the former IT consultant was forced to rely on carers to look after him, as chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as ME) destroyed his life for the third time in three decades.
But after taking his first steps towards recovery eight months ago and joining a Hampshire gym, he is determined to exercise his way back to fitness.
And Steve recently reached a milestone moment when he left his wheelchair at home for the first time and walked into Totton Health and Leisure Centre with just the use of crutches to a round of applause from staff.
“I was barely existing,” recalls the 53-year-old. “I became like a recluse as I couldn’t leave the house and I lost all my confidence. Even turning the TV or the radio on, or trying to read a book or write, was the most exhausting process that it wasn’t worth the effort.”
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) causes persistent exhaustion that affects everyday life and doesn’t go away with sleep or rest. There is no cure for CFS – which affects around 250,000 people in the UK – but for most people, symptoms will improve over time.
“It feels as if you have run a marathon before you can get out of bed,” explains Steve. “It’s almost like your life force is being sucked out of you. You’ve got absolutely nothing left at all to the point where sitting up or holding a cup of tea to your mouth is exhausting.”
His first episode of CFS followed a bout of glandular fever at the age of 19.
“I became really unwell and didn’t know what was going on. It was back in the 1970s when it was still termed as ‘yuppie flu’ and was associated with people who were lazy and didn’t want to go to work. That perception was far from the truth, but the condition is much better understood these days. All I was told at the time was, ‘You’ve got ME, we don’t know what it is and all we can offer you is anti-depressants’.”
It took Steve three years to fight his way through the illness to recovery.
He went on to forge a career, get married and have a daughter, now aged 23. But it was when Steve was in his early thirties, that he says he “crashed again” for four years.
“With hindsight I was nursing the ME for all those years and I was probably working too hard which may have been a trigger. I felt very, very ill again and that cost me my marriage and all my worldly goods. I could only work part-time from home.”
Later returning to full-time work, his latest – and by far the most severe spell of CFS – hit following a bout of pneumonia six years ago.
“It hit me like a truck and I was bedridden 24/7 for three years. I had carers coming in three times a day to care for my every need. It was a dreadful experience and I honestly didn’t know if I would ever recover.”
It was when Steve was introduced to specialist occupational therapist Fran Hill, a Fareham-based ME expert, and he was shown coping strategies that he turned a corner.
Combined with a course of physiotherapy, Steve was eventually able to get out of bed but was still confined to a wheelchair.
Referred by his GP onto New Forest District Council’s Healthy Horizons programme, he found himself in the gym at Totton Health and Leisure centre facing equipment he previously couldn’t contemplate using.
With continuous support from staff there, twice a week Steve followed a basic exercise programme.
After just three months, Steve noticed an improvement – and with that, he was inspired to try harder to beat his condition.
Eight months on, his new aim is to walk without crutches and eventually to ride a bike again.
His recent achievements have not only inspired him to start an Open University degree course but to dye his hair red in a bid to raise funds for the charity Action For ME, which has also helped him win his battle.
To sponsor Steve,visit justgiving.com/Steve-P-Morgan