Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Liz from Castlemartyr is Carer of the year

Liz Maddox, with her husband David
Liz Maddox, with her husband David

Congratulations to Liz Maddox who has been named Cork Carer of the Year. Liz Maddox, from Castlemartyr, is a full time carer to her husband David. Together the couple run a carers and disability support group in their area. 
Jane McNamara talks to Liz about the award, the work of a carer and looking ahead to the national finals
THE woman named as this year’s Cork Carer of the Year has described her husband as her hero.
Liz Maddox, who lives in Castlemartyr with her husband David, of 17 years has dedicated her life to caring for him. She is being honoured not only for her devotion to him, but also the couple set up the Family Carers and Disability Support Group in Castlemartyr, which reaches out to and supports people in the same situation as them.
Speaking of her own personal experience, Liz, aged 61, says, “My husband has a condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. He wasn’t born with it. He had a tumour on his spine when he was younger which was removed and had decompressions and different things afterwards. After the spinal surgeries he ended up with the disability, from the age of 17 onwards.
“He suffers from severe chronic pain which effects blood vessels and organs and problems coordinating muscle movement. It is a condition that does not get better.
“I am responsible for all of Davids personal care, medication, appointments, essential activities, our financial issues and everything to do with the house including gardening, painting and decorating. I supervise David at all times and make sure he is safe.” Liz says.
“When you meet David you can see he has a disability, he is a wheelchair user, but you wouldn’t see that he suffers inside the house in relation to his needs. He is not paralysed but has limited mobility.”
Liz said her husband has a positive outlook on life, even reaching out to others who are in a similar situation.
“David is a very positive person. He doesn’t let his disability change his attitude. He tries to live a good quality of life and tries to support other men who have different conditions and disabilities.”
The couple married 17 years ago. Liz said she knew David had a disability when they decided to spend the rest of their lives together. Had she known how life would pan out, would it have changed things? She says not.
“When I married David, there was a disability. I knew that. Did I know how much worse it would get? Probably not. Would I have changed my mind? Absolutely not.
“I love my husband. It does not matter to me if he has a disability or not. We are very happily married. Everyone with a disability is worthy of loving and being looked after.”
When you get married you get married for love and love overcomes anything. In life you have to realise things can go wrong.
“Whether you marry someone with a disability or whether someone later gets a disability. You can be married to someone for two weeks and they can have a car accident. I know cases where people have walked away and I know many cases where people have stayed. I don’t judge someone for walking away. I personally couldn’t do that but it is not my place to judge.
“I believe there is someone out there for everybody. It is difficult to think of people who might feel they are not worthy of marrying someone because of their disability when actually there might be someone out there in a similar situation and they just click.
“Some people might have a simple thing like diabetes and are young and not married and might feel that they won’t find a wife. It’s just diabetes! My answer to that is that person is not the person for you. If someone has a problem with your disability they are not for you. You will find the right person to love, they will come along.
“David and I have been married 17 years. David is an Irish citizen but was born in America. We met there and came back to Ireland to live in the year 2000. He is my hero.”
Together Liz and David set up the Family Carers and Disability Support Group in Castlemartyr.
“We did that because we thought it would be a good idea to put the family carer and the person with the disability together. We both have separate groups.
“The family carers would have the Carers Association and we meet in Cork City, and then there are disability groups. We decided to have something in the community that would integrate the two. We meet once a month and we have coffee and a chat and presentations by different people providing information about different conditions that might be important to people.
“I think maybe men find it harder to reach out than women. There are many male carers and I am delighted that they have started to come to our support group. We exchange our own experiences. David has personally helped a lot of men mentally cope with the issues they have with being disabled. We have 64 members altogether. They are coming from as far as Ballincolig and Cove.”
Liz describes how she felt on learning she was named Cork Carer of the Year, and will now go on and represent Cork at the national awards on November 11.
“It was a total shock. It is a huge privilege to be given such an award especially going forward now to Dublin to the national event.
“I know a lot of family carers in Cork City and County Cork and they all have a place in my heart. They are all special in what they do.
“It means the world to be able to have the family carer recognised. It highlights the issues that family carers have. I think that this also gives recognition to how there are many of us are out there. We are all very busy taking care of our loved ones.
“We have a lot of people in their 20s and 30s who are just starting out caring for, for example, autistic children, and it is important for us to be encouraging. It really is a privilege to look after someone with a disability.
“When I told David I had won the carer award, he was very emotional. It is a two edged sword because, don’t forget, you don’t win an award for this without having someone sick. He is over the moon, he is very proud. He is very proud of our own disability and support group.
Liz and David will travel to Dublin later this month to take part in the Carers Association National Awards.
Liz said: “The night in Dublin is on November 11. We will stay the night before so David can rest. We are really looking forward to this absolutely joyous occasion.”
She also enjoyed the build up to the regional award presentation.
“A special treat for me was when I had my hair done at Eve’s Hair Salon in Midleton for the Cork awards. As a carer you don’t get out to do those kinds of things. When I heard I won the award I thought, oh I am in a mess! But Eve did a wonderful haircut which meant a lot to me to feel good about myself. That was the good thing about winning the award too, it gave me time to think about me.”

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