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Disability Narratives

Liz had a life threatening illness that led to below the knee amputations of both legs and the loss of dexterity in both of her hands. Several types of support have helped Liz return to work from government schemes, occupational health and the patience and encouragement of friends and colleagues.

Portrait of Liz© Disability NarrativesBackground

at the time of the interview – 2016

Liz is an Associate Professor of Egyptology. She is married with one young son.
Ethnic Background/Nationality: White-New Zealander.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - 2016

Liz came to the University in 2006. She teaches on the BA, MSt and MPhil degrees in Egyptology, contributes to teaching for Classics and Archaeology, and supervises DPhil students. She would travel to Egypt twice a year for fieldwork.

In 2015 Liz was diagnosed with sepsis (also known as blood poisoning or septicaemia). This is a potentially life-threatening condition and Liz was in hospital for several months. In that time she had numerous operations including below the knee amputation of both legs and surgeries to reconstruct her hands and nose. Despite the work on her hands, Liz has lost all manual dexterity. She also has significant hearing loss.

The support from family, friends, students and colleagues has made a great difference in many aspects of Liz's life. When Liz was in the hospital – and as the extent of her illness became apparent – she became anxious about the implications for her employment. However, as well as her colleagues sending cards and visiting her, her husband was in contact with her department who were also able to reassure her that they wanted her back when she was ready.

Just over a year after being admitted to hospital Liz was ready to return to work. She had several meetings involving the occupational therapists from the hospital, the University's Occupational Health team, Disability Support Services, her department and Estates. She said this process of organising the practical aspects of her return took some time. The first step was to set her up with a computer that she could use, which allowed her to start doing some work at home. She also had meetings to discuss changes to her workspace and access to the building she works in, such as automatic doors. Liz noted that many changes happened more quickly than she expected, which she found very encouraging.

I'll spend the rest of my life trying to figure it out. But part of it is a creative response to a world that's no longer designed for you.

Liz applied to the Government's Access to Work scheme to help her to return to work. She gets assistance with taxi fares as well as people employed to assist her. She has two research associates that help her with many aspects of academic life, from collecting books from the library to assisting with writing articles and books. However, while the scheme has been important in helping Liz return to work it was not easy to access. The application process proved to be a large administrative and emotional burden and it took many weeks before she was able to benefit from it.

Liz reflected that before her illness she was unaware of the issues and problems disabled people faced. She felt that she was still learning what it meant to be disabled. One of the things Liz has had to learn is to be more patient with herself when trying to do tasks. She said that almost everything she does now takes much longer to do. Liz recognises that both she and those around her need to be more patient. She also said that previously she disliked making a fuss or asking for help. However, now she recognises that people are very happy to help and that she is starting to get better at asking.

Biography at the time of the interview - 2016