Hard work job hunt­ing with MS

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

When Mar­lene Hess­ing was struck down with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, leav­ing her high-pres­sured ca­reer hit her hard.

The cen­tral city res­i­dent says ad­just­ing to life with the dis­ease was tough enough but strug­gling to find part-time work af­ter hav­ing to step down from a po­si­tion she had held for 15 years was a shock.

‘‘Be­fore then ev­ery morn­ing I had some­where to go and some­thing to do.

‘‘All my life I have been a re­spon­si­ble per­son so when all that is taken away it’s re­ally hard.

‘‘That rou­tine and that re­spon­si­bil­ity were the things that kept me go­ing,’’ she says.

Mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis (MS), which at­tacks the ner­vous sys­tem, causes symptoms in­clud­ing fa­tigue, loss of bal­ance and mus­cle weak­ness.

About 1000 peo­ple in Auck­land are living with the dis­ease.

Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis Auck­land chief ex­ec­u­tive Therese Russel says while at­ti­tudes to­wards em­ploy­ing some­one with MS are im­prov­ing there is still a long way to go.

‘‘It’s still very much damned if you do, damned don’t.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple who do dis­close the dis­ease can some­times end up pay­ing for that dis­clo­sure.’’

Within two years of di­ag­no­sis a per­son is likely to have changed jobs, Russel says.

‘‘But I’ve started to no­tice an in­crease in the num­ber of em­ploy­ers ring­ing up for help about what they can do to make their work­ing en­vi­ron­ment a safer and bet­ter place for an em­ployee with MS.’’

Ig­no­rance about the dis­ease is the main bar­rier, Russel says. you’re if you

Hess­ing was di­ag­nosed with MS 15 years ago at the age of 34.

Af­ter suf­fer­ing three ma­jor re­lapses in quick suc­ces­sion in 2012 she was con­fined to a wheel­chair and had to un­dergo months of gru­elling re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

‘‘I was re­ally ab­so­lutely des­per­ate at that time be­cause I didn’t want to live with all th­ese dis­abil­i­ties – I was the main­stay for my chil­dren,’’ she says.

Hess­ing was no longer able to work full­time so in the end she made the de­ci­sion to step down from her job.

A year-long search for part-time work with no of­fers was de­mor­al­is­ing, she says.

It was at that point that Hess­ing’s 28-year-old son stepped in to help her set up an on­line tea sampling busi­ness, which she now runs part-time.

‘‘I feel nor­mal again and that is the thing that I think most peo­ple, when they get sick, they just want to feel nor­mal again,’’ Hess­ing says.

‘‘For me it’s im­por­tant that, yes, I have this con­di­tion but now I’m mov­ing for­ward and see­ing what’s out there and this is man­age­able for me.’’

The Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis So­ci­ety of New Zealand has cre­ated a guide for em­ploy­ers about the dis­ease.

Photo: JESS LEE

Mar­lene Hess­ing says she found it dif­fi­cult to find work af­ter her di­ag­no­sis with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. She has set up an on­line tea sampling busi­ness.

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