Lauren: “I genuinely don’t know what I’d have done without the Charity – I’ve come so far”

Lauren Gillingham is married to a West Yorkshire firefighter and has received help with both her physical and mental health following an operation, as well as guidance from our welfare team.

For Lauren Gillingham, the last few years have been some of the toughest of her life. Not only was she unable to walk for several months, she also faced challenges with her mental health – all while off sick from work.

However, she says – thanks to your donations – she’s been able to get back on her feet, physically and mentally, having visited one of our centres for rehabilitation and had a series of remote counselling sessions from home.

Lauren is married to West Yorkshire firefighter Edd Gillingham, and hadn’t realised she was also eligible for our support until he contacted us on her behalf.

“In June 2021 I had some metal work taken out of my leg which had been in since I was 20,” says Lauren, who’s a nurse in Sheffield. However, she says the operation didn’t go as planned, and she even sustained a hip fracture during the procedure which meant she faced a much longer recovery than she anticipated.

“I’ve got two young kids who were five and two at the time, so I needed to be up and about for them,” says Lauren. “My muscle has pretty much gone, and the tendons and ligaments are really thin now.

“My husband rang the Charity to check if they’d be able to help me, which they said they could and I was invited to Jubilee House in Cumbria.

“I went for the first time in September 2021. I arrived on crutches and could barely do anything, and then by the end of the week I could lift my leg and was using the anti-gravity treadmill to walk normally again.

“I went back three months after that and wasn’t on crutches that time, so I could finally work on building up some strength. It was honestly incredible the progress I made in just a few days.

“It’s so different now, I’ve come so far with your help. I was playing badminton on my last visit to Jubilee House. I’m no longer limping which is amazing. They’ve told me it’ll never be what it used to be, but I can keep working on it and improving it.”

Lauren was off work for around six months while she built her strength back up. However, she says it wasn’t until she returned to work that the mental toll her injury had had on her really hit.

“When I went back to work I had a bit of a meltdown – it all just got on top of me,” says Lauren. “I ended up crying and having to go home, then when I mentioned it to the physiotherapist I’d worked with at the Charity, she put me in touch with one of your psychological therapists who organised some remote counselling sessions for me.

“It was amazing just to talk it through… it had been a horrific few months to be honest, and the Charity actually told me I was most likely living with PTSD, so the counselling really helped.

“It helped me develop strategies to cope with and overcome some of my most difficult obstacles and process the trauma of my experiences.

“Mentally, since then, it’s been so good to get back to work and have some routine again.”

While Lauren was off sick, she also had the added pressure of her income dropping and she says the advice she received from our welfare team was a huge reassurance too.

“I genuinely don’t know what I’d have done without the Charity, I’d have had no support at all,” she adds.

“Edd ran a marathon in the Lake District in 2022, raising around £1,000, and then did an ultra-marathon in 2023, raising £1,000. It’s our way of paying back for the support I’ve had.”

If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, you can call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or visit the ‘Access Support’ tab in My Fire Fighters Charity.

And remember – if you’re feeling suicidal, you can call our Crisis Line 24 hours a day on 0300 373 0896.