Sixteen-year-old Jasmine loves musical theatre, adores her dog and aspires to be a vet. But as a child Jasmine was confined to a wheelchair for three years, while doctors tried to understand what was wrong.
Jasmine's story is an example of why an integrated approach to care, with mental and physical health treated together from day one, would have made such a difference.
As a young child, Jasmine was bright, cheerful, and athletic. She loved gymnastics. Then she injured her knee falling from a trampoline.
While initially it seemed she would make a rapid recovery, over the weeks her pain worsened and other symptoms developed. The skin on her legs become overly sensitive and she had severe shooting pains when she put weight on her feet.
Jasmine attended the pain clinic at her local hospital which tried to help her get her mobility back but without success.
Being confined to a wheelchair and not being able to play with other children and socialise normally caused Jasmine to become increasingly anxious and sad. She became very withdrawn and couldn’t attend school anymore.
Jasmine started to believe the world was against her. She stopped eating, was scared to go to sleep or have a shower and even began to believe her food was being contaminated. We were just at a loss with what to do.Matthew, Jasmine's dad
When her weight dropped dangerously low medics were forced to put in a feeding tube, something which Jasmine strongly rejected.
Eventually she agreed to eat bread and drink Lucozade in return for the tube being removed and it was at this point she was referred to a specialist intensive team at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, which works with children with complex psychological illnesses.
Over the next 12 weeks Jasmine and her parents stayed at The Croft which provides support for children and their families in a homely environment.
Understandably, Jasmine did not want to talk to anyone about her illness so it was through play therapy that psychiatric specialists began to gently unravel and deal with her problems.
It was while she was busy playing with other children that staff noticed Jasmine was beginning to put weight on her feet, briefly but without pain.
This gave the team confidence to encourage her to try weight bearing again. Initially she was scared but with lots of support and doing it gradually, she found she could manage.
When we started to attend The Croft we genuinely thought Jasmine’s mental health problems had been caused by the inability to deal with her physical illness. We were completely blown away when after speaking with specialists we learnt that her physical illness with her knee was directly linked to her mental health problems.
Jasmine was diagnosed with Conversion Disorder which causes her to be super sensitive to pain to the point where even thinking and talking about pain made it hurt more.
Over the years, what had started as an initial pain in her knees had built itself up to the point where Jasmine’s whole body was in crisis.
After weeks of therapy sessions Jasmine’s parents were able to leave her wheelchair in the car and by the end of her 12 week stay she could do cartwheels.
The unit team also realised Jasmine was dyslexic and had been struggling with her literacy so worked with her school to support her more with reading and writing.
Soon after leaving The Croft Jasmine had returned to school and was starting to build friendships once more. Just a year later she was back at her gymnastics club.
Jasmine added: “Being at The Croft was like a home from home – it didn’t feel like a hospital and it was good to see other children who were also in a similar position that were trying to sort things out. I think a place like this which helps with both physical and mental health will be really, really good thing for children like me in the future.”