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Exchange Program Sparks Sense of Adventure

Exchange Program Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Exchange Program Sparks Sense of Adventure

My (then) boyfriend’s parents refused to let me into their home, solely because I was visually impaired. At that point, my world fell apart.

~Fern Lulham
Women On The Move 61

Inherited Eye Condition Affects Sight

#1 Fern at lectern image description is in the body of the post.
#1 Fern at lectern

I was born with a condition called aniridia. This means the colored part of my eye (the Iris) is absent. The severity of aniridia varies from person to person. In some people, the condition affects only one eye and they are able to drive. For others, it can lead to total sight loss.

Because of aniridia I’ve been severely visually impaired all my life. Even so, when growing up I had enough vision to do virtually everything my friends could do. Although I had little support in my lessons, I went to mainstream schools and could join in all the activities. I was happy in school and made lots of friends who remain my friends to this day.

Communication has always been my passion. As a child, I pretended objects like egg whisks and large spoons were radio microphones to “interview” family members! Before going to sleep, I preferred listening to a local phone-in radio program to a bedtime story. Once I fell asleep I dreamed of hosting my own show. So it was no surprise when I went to university, I studied Radio Broadcast Communication.

Chasing The Communications Dream

I spent my early university days in Cardiff, South Wales. Since Cardiff is several hours drive from home, I lived away from home for the first time.

I never thought my visual impairment would be a barrier to independent living and I loved my new way of life at university. However, when the chance for a year’s exchange to Western Carolina University in the USA came along, my sense of adventure went into overdrive!

While my parents were always supportive, they were nervous about me living on the other side of the world. They could have tried to stop me, but I’m so glad they didn’t. I literally had the time of my life in Carolina.

I made friends from all over the world, hosted the breakfast show on the local FM radio station, and ultimately became the station manager. Such was my love of life in the Great Smoky Mountains. What began as a one year exchange ended up as three years and I graduated from WCU. After graduation, I got a job as a drive-time host at a commercial radio station in Michigan. I felt unstoppable!

Returning Home Brings Bad News

When my visa expired I returned to the UK. After I returned home, routine hospital checks identified conditions often associated with aniridia were starting to affect me. I developed glaucoma, cataracts and corneal problems which needed treatment to avoid further sight loss.

The reality of finding a job in the UK as a visually impaired person, combined with newly diagnosed issues was challenging. The latest news concerning my sight, affected my confidence, my mood, and my sense of self-worth.

Although I’d always presented myself as a positive, happy person, the truth was more negative thoughts were never far from the surface. These feelings grew, when, for the first time in my life, I experienced rejection. My (then) boyfriend’s parents refused to let me into their home, solely because I was visually impaired. At that point, my world fell apart.

Hope Leads The Way

#2 Fern & Mr. Samer Hamada
#2 Fern & Mr. Samer Hamada

Despite the fact my sight worsened as I’ve got older, one of my guiding principles is always to have hope. Thanks to this principle I’ve carried on; found a job, stayed involved with radio, and pursued a public speaking career.

I’m now President of Eastbourne Speakers Club, part of Toastmasters International and I use my skills as a speaker to inspire others. Encouraging them to never to give up hope and to value the person they already are. I am passionate about becoming more influential in the area of mental health and have a youtube channel devoted to the subject.

I am so lucky to be surrounded by positive, supportive people. One of these is my Consultant, Mr. Samer Hamada. In November, I am due to have stem cell surgery carried out by him. If this is successful, it might slightly improve my vision, or it might just prevent further sight loss. Either way, it contributes to the feeling of hope for my future.

Like so many others, I have dark days – days when it would be so easy to just give up. But I won’t give up. I have the love and support of others and hope in my heart. Hope that my best days are ahead of me!

Connecting With Fern On Social Media:

Exchange Program Featured Image Description:

Fern is a pretty brunette who has bangs and hair length just beyond her shoulders. She is wearing a white tank top with a chunky silver statement necklace. Fern’s quote overlayed on the image reads: “My (then) boyfriend’s parents refused to let me into their home, solely because I was visually impaired. At that point, my world fell apart.” 

Additional Images:

  1. In this photo, Fern is standing at a lectern at a speaking event. She is wearing a dark-colored cold shoulder dress with a silver necklace and ankle boots.
  2. Fern is posing in this photo wearing a sparkling lacy red dress with her consultant, Mr. Samer Hamada. 
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Words: Balancing Realism, Compassion & Hope

Balancing Words Featured Image Description is in the body of the post

Words: Balancing Realism, Compassion & Hope

“Long after your final patient has gone home, somewhere somebody’s life may be falling apart due to the conversation you had with them earlier that day.” ~Fern Lulham

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by an amazing motivational speaker I recently met. When Fern Lulham was born her parents were given devastating news about their precious newborn. 

Dear Doctor Choose Your Words

Image 1 Fern Lulham description is in the body of the post.
Image 1 Fern Lulham

What is the scariest thing about an operation? Is it the pain you might experience? Is it that the procedure might go wrong?  For many people, it is the idea of putting their life into the hands of a doctor. Of course, not all operations are life-threatening.

Not all operations carry with them the risk of death. However, every single operation will involve a threat to their patient’s well-being. And this threat does not just apply to operations.

In what other contexts do you have contact with your patients? Every consultation brings this same hazard. Every appointment presents this same danger. And every single conversation you have with a patient puts their life firmly in your hands.

When we go through a medical process, doctors are legally obliged to inform us of the potential risks. And yet there is one very important risk which is not considered; something which can be just as lethal as the surgeon’s knife. It is our doctor’s choice of words.

Words, when placed into the hands of doctors can be deadly. To patients, their words equal truth, their opinions are facts. Their diagnosis is final and our future is whatever they say it will be. I want each and every one of you to know that you are incredibly powerful people. You might not always feel like it, but for most of us patients, you and your words are everything. Always remember this. You and your words are powerful.

And with that power comes great responsibility. When you are talking to a patient, what are you thinking? Are your thoughts with that one patient in that one moment? Do the words you choose tell that patient that they are not just one more name on your seemingly endless list?

Words & Trading Places 

I would like you to think for a moment. I want you to remember a time when somebody has said something which has really stayed with you. A small collection of words which days, months, even years down the line, you can still hear ringing in your ears. How do those words make you feel?

  • They may be angry words of disappointment or disgust.
  • They may be the words of a bully at school.
  • They may be the encouraging words of a friend.
  • They may be the advice of a parent.

Such words can have a huge impact on our lives and on the way we feel about ourselves. And isn’t it surprising how we can still hear them as clear as day as if they have just been said to us just a moment ago?

Image 2 Fern description is in the body of the post.
Image 2 Fern

Have you ever left a voicemail message and felt self-conscious about the way you sound? Your sudden awareness of the structure of your sentences and things not sounding the way you intended. We do not think about this until we know what we have said can be replayed and listened back to again and again.

When I am speaking to an audience, I am very conscious of the words I use and what impact they are having. Why? Because I know that people are listening. What we don’t think about is that people are always listening. They are listening particularly carefully when it is their doctor who is speaking to them. And everyone carries around a means of recording that information and playing it back at will in their minds. Everything you say is being mentally recorded and, believe me, your patients are replaying it over and over and over again.

Rewind Replay

I know this because I do it myself – for hours! Entire evenings after the hospital visit before, have been dedicated to going through these conversations with a fine tooth-comb. Long after your final patient has gone home, somewhere somebody’s life may be falling apart due to the conversation you had with them earlier that day. For them, it does not end when they leave the hospital. Words which concern them, words which terrify them, words which they don’t even understand. Words which haunt them for who knows how long…

Image 3 Fern & Mr Hamada description is in the body of the post.
Image 3 Fern & Mr. Hamada

When I was only a few weeks old and first diagnosed with a visual impairment, my parents were told: “your daughter will never see.” Can you imagine how that would make you feel as a parent being told this by a doctor? Devastation. Hopelessness. Fortunately, he was wrong and I can see – not much albeit – but I can. Even if I couldn’t though, I’m sure you can think of words of hope and encouragement which may have helped my parents then and which may have helped me hearing my story years on.

These days, I go to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. My parents and I have left that hospital feeling just about every emotion known to man. We’ve had good news, bad news and every kind of news in between. The reason my parents come with me, even though I could easily tell them what happened when I got home, is to hear the exact words which are spoken. We have all come to trust that from my consultant, Mr. Samer Hamada, regardless of the stark medical facts, there will always be words of confidence, compassion, understanding and, most of all, of hope.

The Power Of Hope

Image 4 Fern and Nancy description is in the body of the post.
Image 4

This is the thing we crave whenever we are told of my progress. To know that even if things are not going to plan right now, it doesn’t mean they never will be. To be assured that even when there is not an immediate solution, the potential for a solution is always there.

Mr. Hamada speaks with such passion about his work and is so enthusiastic and excited about developments being made in medical science. This is hugely infectious and makes me strongly believe that he truly wants to make things better for me, as much as I would wish it for myself. It is inspiring and encouraging and gives me a reason to keep going, even when my world is uncontrollably getting darker all around me by the day.

So to all doctors, I say, please think about the words you choose and the way they are spoken because, to your patients, words can really be the best medicine.     

Balancing Words Featured Image Description:

A representation of the medical profession, this photo includes a stethoscope, pen, and open laptop on a white background.

Additional Images:

  1. Fern is a pretty brunette with bangs and hair length just beyond her shoulders. She is wearing a white tank top with a chunky silver statement necklace.
  2. In this photo, Fern is standing at a lectern at a speaking event. She is wearing a dark-colored cold shoulder dress with a silver necklace and ankle boots.
  3. Fern is posing in this photo wearing a sparkling lacy red dress with her consultant, Mr. Samer Hamada. 
  4. Nancy (Fern’s golden lab guide dog), is so adorable as both are seated on the floor. Nancy’s paws are on Fern’s shoulders as she gives her human an affectionate kiss. They are both wearing party hats (Nancy’s is pink and Fern’s is green).

Connecting With Fern On Social Media: