EMT1 Linda Shrimpton and Operations Manager Marie Fisher have become known in Cheshire and Merseyside for the popular Menopause Coffee Mornings they put on to support staff. Today, Marie shares her menopause experience, how going through the ‘change’ affected her and why she decided to get involved and help turn Linda’s idea of Menopause Coffee Mornings into a reality.
Everyone experiences menopause differently. There are similarities in everyone’s symptoms, but they can affect individuals very differently and Marie learnt this first-hand. She said, “I had a hysterectomy in 2000 at the age of 46. I was fine for a few years, but then the dreaded hot flushes hit. I tried to talk to my mum about it but all she said was that she had hardly noticed that she’d gone through the change. She had one day of feeling lightheaded and woozy but was fine afterwards, so no help really at all for me to fathom out what was happening. I wasn’t aware of the other symptoms that existed at that time.”
Marie decided to seek advice from her GP who, after prescribing tablets that didn’t help, recommended she try HRT patches. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patches stick to your skin and release hormones that help with menopause symptoms.
After a few years, Marie’s doctor felt she had been on the patches too long and took her off them. Unfortunately, this seriously affected Marie. She explained, “All of the symptoms hit me like a ton of bricks. I was paranoid, angry, cried easy, drank more than I used to and the hot flushes were horrendous. I had itchy skin and it felt like I had insects crawling all over me. The brain fog was awful. I decided I would try to treat myself without medication. I lost weight, became more active and massively reduced my alcohol intake. These actions did not help much at all with easing the menopause symptoms.”
Stuck and not sure what to do, Marie discovered the ‘menopause training for managers’ available through NWAS. She said, “I joined the first Teams meeting for menopause training for managers and learned that your GP has to be sympathetic to your experiences and could not refuse to prescribe you with something to help. I went back to her. This was after two years of suffering all the horrid effects, and she promptly prescribed the patches for me which I had been using initially. I still use these now and they are making a huge difference.”
With Marie’s menopause symptoms under control, she was seeking ways in which she could use her experience to help her fellow colleagues. When NWAS sent out the initial invite to recruit menopause champions, both Marie and Linda volunteered. From that, Linda decided to start a Menopause Coffee Morning, and despite being reluctant at first to even attend one, Marie offered to help and the rest is history.
She said, “Linda has done a lot of work on menopause in the ambulance service as part of her college/university qualification and is the driving force behind the success of our Menopause Coffee Mornings. It was really her idea. The first one was held at Bootle Ambulance Station on 16 August 2022. We didn’t have many people to start off with, but as we publicised our coffee mornings, more and more people wanted to come along to listen and to share their own stories. We don’t profess to be experts in this field. Far from it. We are learning as we go along and have had so much input from so many staff.
She continued, “Initially, we only had women attending the coffee mornings, but then some of our male colleagues asked if they could come along too. We had a talk about this as we didn’t know if the female staff would feel comfortable talking about such an emotive and personal time. We are so glad that our male colleagues have now joined us. They have given us an insight into how their lives are affected by the menopause. For many of them, they have wives, daughters, mums and female colleagues who are experiencing menopause. This is something that we didn’t consider until it was brought up at a café meeting.”
Linda and Marie’s coffee mornings had to pause earlier this year after Marie suffered a serious fall. Now she is fully recovered, they are preparing to put on more coffee mornings but are also trying to encourage other staff to do the same in their areas.