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Navigating The World Of Work With An Invisible Illness

The chronic pain started at midnight and I immediately recognised it for what it was. I knew exactly what would come next – a hospital visit full of painkillers, IV fluids, blood tests, x-rays and CT scans, all the while wondering how the human body could undergo such conditions and still survive. 

With the constant beep and whirl of machines and the growing pain trying to carve out a home in my body, settling into the hospital bed was no easy task. My mind, however, was preoccupied with the inevitable conversation I would have with my manager at 8:00am later that morning. It would be my fourth time calling in sick to work within an eight month period and, after previous ‘warnings’, I could only anticipate the worst. 

During our phone call, the fate of my job hangs unknown as she advises that she needs to discuss the situation with the other managers. As I was on a temporary contract in a job with a high turnover, I already knew what the outcome would be and yet, I could not stop the rise of a false sense of hope within me.

When I was a child, I was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Sickle Cell Anaemia. It currently affects over 15,000 people in the U.K, mainly of Afro-Carribean descent, and is Britain's most common genetic disorder. It is unpredictable and wild, affecting red blood cells and causing chronic pain on an indescribable scale. Life with the illness is a continuous battle, one that would inevitably include navigating the working environment. The experience proved to be a steep learning curve that, three years on, I am still trying to master.