A FORMER NHS project manager with a rare neurological disorder has transformed her life in the face of adversity by raising awareness of her condition through photography.
Michelle Tuttle, 37, from Bromsgrove collapsed on her way to work in August 2014 and was admitted to Worcestershire Royal Hospital (WRH).
She was diagnosed by other specialists with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) – a condition the charity FNDHope describes as having symptoms debilitating as Parkinson’s or MS.
The non-profit organisation is the world’s first patient support group for those with FND.
Despite symptoms, including blurred vision, seizures, memory loss, slurred speech and the inability to walk, Michelle said she had received no support from the NHS or disability allowance from the state.
She said: “They told me I had a migraine-related condition yet I could barely stand when they discharged me from the hospital.
“I waited six months for a follow-up appointment and another four months for results thanks to help from PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Services).”
Michelle said the lack of support has been ‘disgusting’ to the point she bought her own crutches from Argos.
Despite the tough year, Michelle said her love for photography helped cope with the ‘diabolical’ hospital experience, leading to the launch of Break the Silence – an emotive project ‘representing invisible illnesses and the isolation and pain felt by sufferers.’
She has offered her works for free to charities like Willows Hedgehog Rescue and gained critical acclaim as ‘best selling artist’ at Bromsgrove’s Artyfact’s Gallery.
FNDHope’s Kim Hearne said lack of awareness was causing some doctors to be dismissive due to stigmatisation.
She added: “Doctors want to help but often don’t know how, which is frustrating to many patients.”
She said even if the condition was alien, people like her should still receive the support they needed.
Michelle added: “It has been a horrendous year, which I couldn’t have got through without my fiancé and close friends.
“I feel lucky I was able to re-ignite my passion for photography against the odds.
“My art represents my personal fight in the face of adversity to regain some independence.
“I wanted to do something positive to demonstrate what we can achieve, even when life gangs up on us.”
A spokesperson at Worcestershire Royal Hospital said there was no medical explanation for Michelle’s symptoms and patients with FND were often referred to a specialist in neuropsychiatry.
Robin Snead, divisional director of operations for medicine said: “We are sorry to hear about Michelle Tuttle’s condition, and apologise for the delay in returning her test results. The test results have now been shared with Michelle.
“We would welcome the opportunity to speak to Michelle about her issues if she would like to contact us directly. We’re unable to share more details on individual cases.”
Visit www.mctphotography.co.uk to see how Michelle used photography to raise awareness of FND and www.fndhope.org for more information about FND.