Disabled Leeds based GP uses special wheel-chair to help get elderly patients ready to go home

A wheel-chair bound trainee GP who has a rare condition affecting body tissue is still working to help treat elderly patients during the coronavirus outbreak.

Thursday, 16th April 2020, 6:00 am

Dr Hannah Barham-Brown is currently working for Leeds Community Healthcare, supporting an increasing number of senior patients who have been rapidly discharged from hospital.

She struggles to walk due to having Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a group of disorders that affect connective tissues supporting the skin, bones, blood vessels and organs.

However she is still doing her rounds using a technologically advanced powered wheelchair, a WHILL Model C which she calls Merida, which gives Dr Barham-Brown the ability to position herself in tight spaces and closer to patients. The chair can be dismantled and stored in a car boot and 'parked' using a remote-control smartphone app as well.

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Dr Hannah Barham-Brown.

Dr Barham-Brown said: "When I went to medical school, I trained for many unexpected things however nothing could have prepared me for everything I would face working during Coronavirus.

"In many ways, I am very lucky. I’m currently based in the Leeds NHS ‘Recovery Hub’ for older patients who have been discharged from hospital, but need some rehabilitation or a care package starting before they are able to go home.

"However COVID 19 is now everywhere, with many of those who have it appearing to have no symptoms at all. I am spending much of my day in my WHILL wearing a facemask, visor over my glasses, apron and gloves. My patients aren’t able to have visitors so sometimes I have to make difficult phone calls to loved ones to explain the situation and the options we may or may not have."

Dr Barham-Brown gives motivational talks and for the second year running, was included in the Shaw Trust’s Power 100 list – making her one of the most influential disabled people in the UK.

She says that her condition doesn't make her more susceptible to coronavirus - but her profession does and that there is a fear among the disabled community that they are more at risk.

She added: "I’m also lucky that my condition doesn’t leave me especially ‘vulnerable’ to Coronavirus – whilst as a healthcare professional I know I am at higher risk of catching it than the average member of the population.

"I know there is a lot of very justified fear in the disabled community at the moment; as ever, it feels like the challenges faced by wider society are magnified for those who rely on care, and have additional health needs. Please, if you are struggling, reach out. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have an amazing community of disabled people sharing their experiences and supporting each other."

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