Storying Sheffield

Tom’s Story

“I sometimes don’t speak to anybody for days.”

This story is part of the Storying Health Inequalities project. You can listen to an audio version of Tom’s story here. Photos by Andy Brown.

Specifically I’ve got emphysema…what makes it a bit harder for me is that – it’s not that I’m not getting enough oxygen, but my lungs are damaged in such a way that it doesn’t process it properly, I’m hoping it’s gonna get better, it’s never going to be a hundred percent, I’m always going to struggle…like I mean I do try to avoid steps even sometimes I will avoid going to places if I’ve got steps if I can manage not to go – stuff like that so I know I’m getting worse.. like, so no I can’t say I’m healthy.

Well I think bulk of its to do with smoking because I smoked for like nearly 50 years… but, I’ve worked in places where they’ve had asbestos, I’ve worked in foundries and that where you know all pollutants and stuff what they have in them now in fact even in that my first job, when set out doing file cutting…when you’ve got a box of files when you’ve finished a box then you took the box next to where it’s called pickling factory and they’d lower box into an acid bath like and you’d all them fumes coming up and it’s all things like that which could have – I mean I don’t know because there were no – I mean health and safety in them days weren’t like it is now like and you didn’t get respirators or owt like that, like nobody like wore masks or owt.

I’ve been moving about a bit for the last two years, it’s surprising you know you live in these flats; it’s surprising how anonymous they are like you just don’t see people. I hear people coming in and out but like it seems strange when you go out your front door there is nobody about [laughs]. You see I could cope when I were working because I’d got people at work, I went out every day and I’d got work friends stuff like that but now you know if I don’t speak to m’ kids on phone or…things like that I sometimes don’t speak to anybody for days you know and that’s a nightmare, that is really bad and like this last couple of weeks, know with weather being so bad, like that were a nightmare.

In fact my brother came and took me to his house and I stayed with him for a few days, like because I couldn’t get out – couldn’t get to the shop or anything…like so that’s…it’s great you know if you can get out and about like even if you can just get into Tesco’s even if you just say hello to someone at checkout [laughs] at least it’s – there’s people around you…

I’m on anti-depressants at the moment and reason for that is because I can’t cope with packing up work, it’s just something that I never even thought of doing, like never had no…thoughts on retirement I just thought I’d carry on working, like…I’ve never actually thought about what is health…but to me I suppose like just being able to function normally…like knowing you can get from A to B, physically and things like that…just being able to get on with things…I mean if I can do that then I consider myself in good health. I mean mental health can be more debilitating then physical health, it can stop you doing a lot more than physical health really.

I think that’s the problem with mental health illnesses if – with physical illnesses if you can put your finger on it… they can kind of substitute it for something else like generally not always…I think mental health, it’s not just understanding itself it’s trying to get other people to understand it as well…I think people are more aware now than they used to be but I still think there’s a long way to go before people start fully understanding mental health issues…and I do think – saying that I think… that people with mental health problems – some people with mental health problems, are worse off than some people with physical problems, nobody sees your mental health problems like…good thing about Upperthorpe were they had a practice nurse there what was absolutely fantastic, really supportive and she stopped me smoking [laughs] like I mean she got me by scruff of neck literally speaking er not literally speaking verbally speaking, she got me by scruff of the neck and made me believe [laughs] I’d got to pack up.

I think if I had a criticism I think it’s…they’re quite often content to give you a prescription and then pass buck to somebody else, like refer you to another department kind of thing or there’s been a couple I’ve been offered to go to that quite often are like voluntary organisations what work in – and charities they’ll point you in the directions of them and I think a lot of GPs are quite content that once they’ve given you a prescription, that their job is done…and just give you a leaflet and say these are alright so see these…I might be being a bit harsh…I think they could – I know it’s really difficult with these times because they haven’t got time to waste and stuff like that but, I think they could spend more time with you personally, or even jointly with someone in the field, so that it doesn’t feel like you’re getting offloaded, like I mean I do accept you know that it’s getting even harder for GPs and the medical profession in general you know but could some of that be… rerouted?