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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Cumbrian teen says 'I was born into being a young carer'

Ellen Elliot has been a young carer for so long she can’t even remember when she started.

Ellen Elliot photo
Ellen Elliot

For the 17-year-old Carlisle College student, being a carer means looking after her mum Diana, who has hydrocephalus – more commonly known as having ‘water on the brain’.

Diagnosed at 15, it means Diana is prone to dizziness, panic attacks as well as other mental problems affecting everyday life.

Ellen, from Whitehaven, is her mum’s principal carer and has to make sure that she takes the tablets she has been prescribed every day, as well as doing other general caring roles.

“I was just born into being a young carer, I have been one my whole life,” she said. “I’m the only one who can get her out of the panic attacks.

“My nan and my sister help but my nan can’t do it as well because she’s obviously older. I also do the general housework, make sure she’s okay and take her to places she needs to go.”

Also after Diana has had to undergo surgery Ellen will step up and be her nurse by continuing to clean her wounds once she’s left hospital and take her to any appointments.

“When I was little I went to St John Ambulance so I guess I learned a little there but it is just something I have always had to do.

“I don’t tend to think about it but sometimes it does get on top of me and it is hard. All of my life I’ve had to be the strong one, everyone else relies on me,” she added.

Ellen has agreed to tell her story as part of News & Star’s Give Them A Break campaign, to help get respite for carers.

Although she dedicates her time selflessly, her caring has come at a sacrifice.

She struggles to got out with her friends for fear that her mum will be taken ill, and her home responsibilities affected her school life.

“If my mum takes ill it doesn’t matter where I am, if she is ill I have to get home,” she explained.

“Because of what my mum has got it means she thinks about things a bit differently. So if I would want to go and hang out with my friends she might get a bit upset.

“She had a problem recently and it was around the time of my GCSEs. I would go into school, sit in the nurse’s room and just cry because I couldn’t take it.”

To make life even harder for Ellen, she had to battle against school bullies for many years.

“I got bullied from the day I started primary school to the day I started year eight,” she recalled. “In secondary school it was both verbal and cyber. Due to that I used to have an eating problem when I was younger so I was like a bag of bones.”

Despite suffering at the hands of bullies, Ellen has fought back by securing a place at college studying art and design and has dreams of becoming a tattoo artist in the future.

Our appeal aims to raise enough money to send young carers like Ellen from Eden, Carlisle and west Cumbria on respite breaks.

Although Ellen no longer attends the increasingly rare trips aimed at helping a young carer recapture their childhood, she said they “changed her life”.

“It is not just about getting out of the house but you are able to get away from everything for a few days. When I started going on the trips with West Cumbria Carers I had no friends whatsoever, but now I am one of the most outgoing people ever.”

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