SHOPPING in town, going for a coffee with friends, cooking your favourite meal or taking a walk in the park are all simple pleasures in life, which Judith Bull is unable to enjoy. Apart from regular hospital visits, the 61-year-old is confined to her bed in her one-bedroom bungalow in Park South – but that doesn’t stop Judith making the most of life.
She said: “I have to play the cards I’ve got and often make light of the situation. My mind is more active than ever and I never feel bored or lonely. I’m a fighter – my doctor says I’ve had my nine lives – I’m indestructible.”
Judith has suffered from Type 1 Diabetes since the age of 15 and in recent years her condition has deteriorated to the extent that both her legs have been amputated and her bowel no longer functions properly.
That means she needs care throughout the day, from 8am until 10pm, which involves anything from meal preparation to personal hygiene, clothes washing to cleaning the house.
“They do a fantastic job. Besides ensuring my comfort, they also do all the chores; the place has never been so spotless. If it wasn’t for my carers, I wouldn’t be here – it’s as simple as that.”
Judith’s care is provided, under contracts with Swindon Council’s adult social care, by a local agency First City, with care management and occupational therapy services provided by SEQOL (Social Enterprise Quality of Life) – the organisation delivering a wide range of health and social care services to adults in Swindon.
Her life was very different 11 years ago, when she worked as a customer accounts manager at Thames Water. Judith had to take early retirement on grounds of ill health.
She said: “I was clinically depressed and suffering from bi-polar disorder. Difficult family relationships were at the root of it all – and personal setbacks. I had seven early miscarriages and a still-born daughter. My marriage eventually fell apart and I was effectively homeless. Fortunately I was able to move into a one-bed flat in Park North before having the house repossessed.”
At her lowest ebb, Judith spent time in a Swindon mental health in-patient unit to support her condition. There she met a fellow in-patient Robert and their friendship is stronger than ever today.
“We just clicked and have been friends ever since. “Robert is married now and has a very senior job, but he still finds time to see me each week,” she said.
“I’ve just made him my next of kin because he knows exactly what I want to happen when my time comes. We share the same sense of humour and still have a good laugh, despite the circumstances.”
Thanks to technology, Judith is still very much in touch with the outside world. She chats on the phone to friends and uses the internet for email and to do her own food shopping. It also means Judith can indulge her passion for teddy bears – her collection of Paddington bears and other soft toys fills the front room.
After she lost her first leg, Judith had a spell of living in Elizabeth House, a council-run sheltered housing scheme. Staying in her flat wasn’t an option because it was on the first floor and the new set-up helped her to acclimatise to being a wheelchair user. She also had support from carers, who visited three or four times a day to help with her routine.
Judith said: “Practically, it was fine but I just wasn’t ready for bingo at 3pm. Although my body was well past its best, my mind has never been brighter and more active. “Fortunately I was able to move to another flat, which gave me back that sense of independence.”
Her health has faced further setbacks, including two heart attacks and another leg amputation, but Judith battles on regardless.
She said: “No one thought I would survive, but I have. I have to take a barrage of tablets, but somehow I keep going and am incredibly grateful to the staff who support me in my life which though limited is still very much worth living.”
l Watch a short film about Judith’s story at youtube.com/watch?v=zY5FlPXiquE