Paul Pickup, Senior Clinical Advisor at 111, is no stranger to the ambulance service, working on the frontline for 20 years as a clinician, he has been part of the NWAS family for many years. But those years haven’t been plain sailing for Paul. In July 2019, he was in the fittest condition he’d ever been in; he represented the trust at rugby against the fire service, did a Tough Mudder and ran his fastest park run ever. However, his life turned upside down just one month later.
Paul tells us, “In August 2019, I was diagnosed with advanced melanoma that had spread to my lungs and brain. I was given a very poor prognosis – less than 12 months without intervention and then sent for surgery and trial drugs. I had bilateral craniectomies which left me with hemianopia, loss of one-half of my visual field. I returned to work, from home, as COVID-19 was hitting the country and I was extremely clinically vulnerable.”
“I was very well supported by my line manager, but due to the brain surgery and sight loss, I lost my driving license. I then started having seizures, related to the surgery, and at this point I was a tad down and decided to explore medical retirement. This was partially granted, and I walked away from a job I loved.”
Three years after leaving Team NWAS, Paul returned to us via 111, proving the oncology numbers wrong and fighting the good fight!
To support Paul do his job, the senior management team at 111 has made adjustments to help him. He said, “To reduce seizure activity, I have been allowed to have almost constant shifts which means my epilepsy meds are taken at the same time daily and I have a reasonably stable sleep pattern. I can also apply for homeworking after six months of employment, so that’s just going in now.”
When talking about stereotypes, Paul tells us, “I don’t feel I have experienced stereotypes in regard to my disability. It might just be me, but I’m quite thick-skinned and if there is anything other than blatant stereotypical behaviour, then I don’t think I would notice. But I know that people with disabilities do experience stereotypical behaviour and it’s important to raise awareness of all disabilities to put an end to the stigma that surrounds them, hence why I am sharing my story. I am a believer in the ‘get knocked down, get back up stronger’ mentality, and would encourage anyone who has a disability, not to be afraid to ask for support if you need it.”