Seven years ago I was a real estate solicitor at Eversheds. I had everything, including a happy marriage and a job I loved. In 2013, I had a brain haemorrhage – which changed everything. It left me unemployable. I now walk with a walker, have double vision and struggle with verbal communication.
I am effectively trapped in my home with no access to my garden. I have contacted charities to help but have been told that accessing my garden is ‘a social not medical problem’. And while I did find a charity that would lend me money, they wanted a charge on the house which I was not willing to give.
I have been shocked at how little support I get (we have used all our savings to make the house habitable). I think the best advice is to check your insurance, as you never know when you are going to need it.
I had critical illness cover, which was a lifeline even if it is all gone now. Social services pay for someone to help me with the children for 12 hours a week, which is great – but it has taken three years to get help.
Before the haemorrhage, I did a lot of volunteer work. I set up pro bono project Essex Street Law at the University of Essex – it is still running 13 years on. I also came second in the Solicitors Pro bono Group student challenge. There is a rather ironic photo of me at a reception at the House of Lords with Cherie Booth QC.
I do not feel bitter, just bemused. It did not and does not feel real.
I was already off work having babies, but I always thought I would know what I would like to do again now. I do not want other solicitors to feel sorry for me. But I owe it to anyone else in a similar predicament to tell my story – and to suggest to other solicitors that they appreciate what they have and check they have adequate insurance.
Claire Withnall, Colchester