Support groups help people to manage their chronic pain

Members of Gosport Partners Through Pain with Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage.
Members of Gosport Partners Through Pain with Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage.

South Central Ambulance Service holding forum event

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Visiting a museum, enjoying lunch at a restaurant or just getting out the house can be a problem for people suffering from chronic pain.

And most of the time, their pain cannot be seen by others making it difficult for people to understand what they are going through.

Gosport Partners through Pain is given �500 from the HMS Sultan'Summer Show's charity chest

Gosport Partners through Pain is given �500 from the HMS Sultan'Summer Show's charity chest

Chronic pain is pain that lasts for a long time, and that can lead to depression, anxiety and problems with sleeping as well as the daily discomfort.

Two groups look to support people with chronic pain to get them confident and enjoying life.

Gosport Partners Through Pain and Fareham Friends Through Pain meet monthly for people suffering from the disability but also their partners or carers.

The groups aims to get them out of the house and learning more about chronic pain and how they can manage it.

And members organise days out, lunches and social evenings.

Brenda Hadfield set up both groups. She herself suffers from chronic pain.

‘I was sent to a physiotherapist because it is the best way to deal with chronic pain,’ she says.

‘When I had achieved as much as I could, I was encouraged to go on a six-week course to learn how to manage the pain.

‘At the course, I was asked if I would set up a support group for people in the area where I live which was Fareham at the time.

‘I said I would give it a try for six months and that was 16 years ago.’

When the group started, they would meet at Brenda’s house but as it got bigger they had to branch out and now meet at Stubbington Baptist Church.

The Gosport group started seven years ago when Brenda moved to the town.

Her doctor heard about what she started in Fareham and asked if she would do the same in Gosport.

Brenda adds: ‘I checked with my husband Eddie and he was happy for me to start a new group. I started putting up posters and started getting people call me.’

Seven years later and that group is still going strong.

For Brenda, it is important that the groups remain in both Fareham and Gosport.

She says: ‘For some people with chronic pain, they would go nowhere if it wasn’t for the monthly meeting.

‘Some people are isolated. Pain can lead to depression and isolation because there is no cure for it.’

And for the members, the groups have made a huge difference to their lives.

From speaking to others with the same disability to learning different ways to cope with it, the groups are full of benefits.

Alison Wilson is chairwoman and secretary of Fareham Friends Through Pain.

She joined after hearing about the group from Brenda and fellow member Ken Tucker.

She says: ‘We do so many things through the group such as lunches and we held a coffee morning recently too.

‘We like to socialise as much as we can and do as much as we can.

‘When we do organise days out, we have to check the disabled access and how we are all going to get there.

‘It isn’t easy sometimes but it is important that we do it.’

Members of both groups agree. Ken was at a low point in his life before he joined Fareham Friends Through Pain.

He was suffering with chronic pain and ME and has just become unemployed. He went on the six-week course to learn how to manage the pain and met Brenda.

She spoke about the group and Ken was keen to join. But it took him another three months to gain the confidence to go along.

Ken says: ‘I wanted to join but I didn’t have the confidence in myself to do it.

‘But after the first meeting, I kept with it and it started steadily building my confidence.’

Ken was then asked to become treasurer and he said the responsibilty made him feel like he was worth something to the group.

‘I am so happy I stuck with the group, it has improved my life,’ he adds.

Both groups are keen to help as many people as possible with varying degrees of chronic pain.

Claire Doe is the youngest in the group, and joined after her mum Alison started at the Fareham group.

Claire says: ‘One of the things I really like about the group is you only need chronic pain to become a member. There isn’t any sort of judgement when you go along.

‘I was there for a good couple of months before I could feel comfortable there but the members were great.

‘They don’t force you to join in or speak – you can just back and listen.

‘There isn’t any pressure to share your story if you don’t want to.’

She adds: ‘Initially it is daunting but now they feel like family.

‘As well as managing the pain, you make friends.’

Erica Dawtrey, from the Gosport group, agrees.

She says: ‘I was amazed at how friendly everyone was.

‘Compared to other social groups I have been a part of, everyone was so lovely.’

She adds the most surprising thing is, nobody talks about their chronic pain.

‘Despite being a meeting for people with chronic pain, we talk about anything but our medical problems,’ she says.

‘We talk about so many other things that it helps take your mind off it.’

Erica also liked the way the group cares for each members.

‘One of the first things I was asked when I joined was my date of birth,’ she adds.

‘They wanted it so they could arrange to send me a card on my birthday.

‘It is little things like that that other groups don’t pay attention too.

‘When it is a big birthday for someone, we organise balloons and flowers and small gifts which is something I like.’

For Gosport member Gilly Utting the support she receives is the biggest benefit from the club.

She admits although her husband is supportive, sometimes she ends up shouting at him.

‘I get very frustrated sometimes because chronic pain is a lot to take on,’ she says.

‘You end up getting to a point where enough is enough.

‘Some people just don’t understand what it is like and tell you to get on with it.

‘Luckily I have a husband who is very supportive but I can get frustrated at times.’

The level of support both groups give is clear through their membership numbers.

Fareham Friends Through Pain welcomed four new members and both groups are looking to take on more.

Since starting, they have seen their numbers steadily grow as more and more people hear about them.

And looking to the future, the groups want to try new things with members and organise more days out.

One event they are hoping to organise next year is to take the Gosport members for a two-day trip to London.

Brenda says: ‘The Gosport group is trying to do something quite outstanding next year.

‘We want to take the group to London and see a show and spend a couple of days there.

‘It will take a lot of organising because we need to see how everyone can travel up there, check restaurants and hotels but it something we really want to try.

‘It will be fantastic to give them something to look forward to.’

Gosport Partners Through Pain meet on the last Wednesday of every month at the parish hall, at Christ Church in Stoke Road. The meetings are from 10am until 12.30pm.

Fareham Friends Through Pain meet on the last Thursday of every month at Stubbington Baptist Church, in Jay Close, from 10am until 12.30pm.

For more information on the groups, go along to a meeting or email Alison at alison.wilson67@hotmail.co.uk

LEARNING ABOUT CHRONIC PAIN

ONCE a month, members of the Gosport and Fareham groups meet to socialise and learn about chronic pain.

The meetings range from having speakers to enjoying a lunch.

Speakers vary from specialist doctors from Queen Alexandra Hospital to people from attractions like the Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

They give members the chance to get out of the house and see friends.

‘For many people, it is a chance for them to socialise and look forward to something,’ says founder of both groups Brenda Hadfield.

‘It can be hard for people with chronic pain to get out and about.

‘Even the simplest of things like getting public transport can be hard.

‘So we organise for people to pick members up so they can come along.

‘We don’t want anyone to feel like they are missing out.’

FUNDRAISERS

KEEPING the groups funded is something treasurer Ken Tucker has to look after.

He looks after the money for Fareham Friends Through Pain and thinks of ways to keep the group going.

He says: ‘We have to raise money. We have got to cover our expenses like the rent.

‘The last year or so, we have been doing well with our fundraisers.

‘We do raffles within the groups with people paying £1 and recently we went to Whiteley to tell people about what we do.

‘Just by telling people about who we are and what we do, people were happy to donate.’

The group also received money from the HMS Sultan Summer Show.

Brenda Hadfield went along to receive the £500 cheque.

She adds: ‘We are always looking for people who might be happy to help and HMS Sultan have been great.’