05 Jun 2014

The Day I Hosted An Event At Parliament

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Yesterday was a very big day for me and a long time in the making. Eight years ago I spoke at a Parliamentary event for young people with arthritis, which was hosted by David Amess, MP and sponsored by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society.

That particular day made a huge impact on me as it was the first time I realised how different I was to all other arthritis sufferers – at least those who had had it since a very young age. I was the only one in that room who had no long-term joint, bone or organ damage, or any deformities. I was also the only one who was treated with integrated medicine. After that day I stayed in touch with Mr Amess in the hope that we could help these arthritis sufferers find another way. But all the big national arthritis charities didn’t want anything to do with me because I wasn’t promoting the drugs that came from the pharmaceutical companies that funded them. So I decided to embark on this journey on my own, without the help of people and organisations whose views were so vastly disparate from mine that just being affiliated with them would go against everything I stood for. Of course when you are a small individual, not backed up by a national charity or organisation, these things can be hard, but I persevered.

In October 2013 Mr Amess agreed to put on another event, this time co-hosted and organised by myself, with the focus on complementary and alternative medicine and its place in rheumatology. It took huge amounts of organising, from the speakers and sponsorship, to the guests and catering. We had a HUGE setback when, 2 weeks before, we realised that we had booked our event on the same day as the State Opening of Parliament, when the Queen would be in the building. It was too late to change the date so we pushed it back by an hour and did all we could to make sure our guests would still get access, despite the heavy security measures in place.

Through a lot of hard work, it all worked out and everyone made it. Our event took place in Dining Room A in the House of Commons on Wednesday 4th June 2014 at 1pm. We entered just as the Queen was leaving and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of her, Prince Charles, Camilla and some others.

We mingled in the room before the talks where canopes were brought out by waiters and people introduced themselves to one another. The event was welcomed by David Amess, where he named me Parliamentary ambassador for juvenile arthritis, and then the talks took place. Our speakers were Dr Clarissa Pilkington – consultant paediatric rheumatologist at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, Dr Peter Fisher – clinical director of the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine and physician to the Queen, Denise Balyoz – mother of 6 year old JRA survivor, and myself.

MP’s present included David Amess, David Tredinnick – Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Integrated Healthcare, Matthew Offord, Ben Bradshaw, Sir Bob Russell, Paul Flynn, Mark Durkan and Cheryl Gillian, as well as Matthew Williams who is hugely prominent in the complementary and alternative medicine field. Other guests included John Cook – chairman of the British Homeopathic Association, Enid Segall – President of the European Federation of Homeopathic Patients’ Associations and Chairman of the Friends of the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine and many very valued patients, without whom, the event wouldn’t have taken place. The event was also sponsored by Holland & Barratt.

So what makes an event like this a success? Well, the response from guests I think. Not only were the Parliamentarians intrigued by the talks and information, asking for more, but the healthcare professionals made good connections with one another, and we were all able to speak at the end about how we could come together as one collective group to help improve accessibility and affordability of complementary and alternative medicine.

I love that my passions have enabled me to do these things and I plan on trying to help people heal for as long as I can.

My talk has been videoed and will be up on the site within a few days so keep a look out!

Lauren x

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