A former ambulance worker ended up more than £20,000 in debt after a major illness led to him needing a kidney and pancreas transplant and having a leg amputated.

At the same time, Mark, who worked within the independent ambulance service, also lost the sight in one eye as a result of developing Type 1 diabetes.
But after contacting TASC, The Ambulance Services Charity, Mark, aged 51, from Hampshire, is now being helped on the road to financial recovery.

TASC has been able to provide Mark with substantial financial support, both in the form of two direct grants but also by identifying further financial help from other charitable organisations.

Mark, who used to run his own leasehold pub in Salisbury before deciding on a change of career, worked for the independent D & M Ambulance Service in Hampshire and Ambucare in Dorset as a driver and attendant.

He said:

“I did a lot of high-dependency work for Ambucare but I couldn’t go front line because of my Type 1 diabetes. We did a lot of private hospital work, with hospital transfers all over the country. We were on call 24 hours a day and it wasn’t uncommon to be called out in the middle of the night. I had a lot of contact with the patients despite not being able to do front line work.”

Sadly, Mark had to take medical retirement from the independent ambulance service after 10 years when his diabetes resulted in him losing part of his right leg.

“I had the bottom half of my right leg amputated due to poor circulation caused by my diabetes. That was about 10 years ago but I’d been having problems for a while. I couldn’t feel anything in my lower legs but it was still a shock when they told me I had to lose my leg. Fortunately the other leg is ok. The recovery period went really well and I was jogging again within three months.”

But Mark, who has a prosthetic leg, suffered further health problems arising from his diabetes seven years ago.

“I had to start dialysis and was put on the waiting list for a new kidney and pancreas. After a couple of years on the waiting list I had a double transplant operation but I am still pretty weak. The new kidney is working well but the pancreas recently started to play up. The donor kidney also had a virus called Cytomegalovirus. It’s ok but it flares up from time to time and causes stomach problems.”

Mark had also started to develop eyesight problems.

“I went for my driving licence renewal and felt my eyes weren’t right. So I went to the opticians because I thought I needed glasses and they sent me straight to the eye hospital. I was diagnosed with diabetic retinothapy which is when the blood cells at the back of the eye bleed. It was like someone pulling the curtains – I could be fine one minute and then I could be blind the next. My eyes have continued to deteriorate ever since. I am now completely blind in my right eye and partially sighted in the other. I am still having ongoing laser treatment to try to save the remaining sight in my left eye.”

Being medically retired led to Mark gradually getting into debt.

“My debts have been building up as a result of not being able to work and, on top of this, I was getting depressed and getting more into debt through pay day loans and credit cards. I got myself into a real mess.

“I phoned up The Ambulance Services Charity on the off chance last summer even though I didn’t really know a lot about them at the time. They were really approachable. I remember them saying that I had worked for years helping others and now it was time someone helped me. That stuck with me. I was never a person to ask for help. Even at the really low moments they are always there to listen. I have come to trust them and build up a relationship and I feel as though I can go to them with anything.

“They have been helping me with debts and I am now in the process of declaring myself bankrupt. It will be a big weight off my shoulders. Everything got on top of me but TASC have helped me cope. They have been brilliant really. The health issues will never go away but I feel more positive about the situation now.”

Photo supplied by WMAS

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