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Sophie highlights invisible illness to students

Sophie Leonard launched her hypermobility syndrome awareness cards at Sunderland College

A Sunderland student who suffers from hypermobility syndrome returned to her former college to raise awareness of the debilitating condition.

Sophie Leonard, 21, spoke to students at Sunderland College about the syndrome which has affected her for the past four years and can cause excruciating pain.

The University of Sunderland student began suffering from symptoms of hypermobility syndrome (HMS) in her second year at college and found it difficult for doctors to correctly diagnose the condition.

She said: “My joints extend beyond normal range and the ligaments surrounding the joints are weak. It means my joints move around easy and can dislocate or partially dislocate on a daily basis. My illness affects me in different ways depending on the joints. Some days I can’t walk as far as normal and other days I can’t write as long as possible – it all depends on which joints are playing up really.”

Sophie, who is studying a psychology degree, is working with Fixers charity to raise awareness of HMS and she has created pocket-sized cards to explain the effect it has on her body and what people should be aware of.

She added: “HMS is overlooked all too often because the condition is not visible. I know how tough it can be to get people to understand that a lot of illnesses aren’t visible, so the cards I have produced with the help of Fixers explain HMS in a simpler way.”

Sophie officially launched her awareness cards at the college when she spoke to year 12 students about her illness on Thursday.

She said: “The students seemed really interested and surprised about HMS – it’s not a topic a lot of people are aware of.  Coming back to college was a great experience because I got my first symptoms when I was studying here.

“It’s important to me that young people understand about invisible illnesses and I do think students will be more aware now. I hope to continue spreading the word so more young people are aware of HMS.”

Gemma Hughes, Sophie’s former Sunderland College tutor, said: “It is always lovely to see former students doing well. As Sophie’s former tutor and lecturer, it was nice to welcome her back to the college to talk to current students regarding her experience of HMS and other invisible conditions. It was beneficial for the students to hear from Sophie and the talk encouraged them to be more aware of other people’s needs. They were also fascinated by the work of Fixers, and their work to engage young people who want to create a better future.”

Fixers, which is funded by the Big Lottery, helps young people aged 16-25 take on any issues that matter to them and help them find a creative way to do something about it and make positive change.

For more information about Sophie’s illness, visit her Fixers webpage here.



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