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Uni, Working and Caring

I’m a 21 year old university student and I help care for my mum who suffers from a chronic kidney failure disease. For as long as I can remember I have been a young carer and quite naturally, it’s a role that I’ve learnt to balance in between studying and work life. I’m currently in my fourth year of full time studying and am also working part-time to make ends meet with both tertiary and household finances. For me, I’ve led what feels to be quite an ordinary lifestyle as its all I’ve ever known but through Carers NSW Young Carer Program, I’ve learnt that (just like many other young carers) what we do is rather extraordinary.
Throughout the years, our household of three has experienced what most people wouldn’t face in a lifetime. The hardships we’ve endured- and in particular what mum has endured- have made us more resilient in finding happiness In a period of 10 years mum had spent approximately two years in hospital altogether, enduring eight hours of dialysis every second day for 7 years and hospital admittances of up to 3 months at a time. As a result from dialysis complications, throughout this she had battled three strokes, brain surgery as a result, and unexpected seizures from brain-tissue scarring and post-surgery. We had to help her walk again and help strengthen her memory and problem solving skills.
Two years ago she was blessed with a kidney transplant from the donor waiting list; a beautiful selfless soul had donated their organs, giving the gracious gift of life and a second chance for my mum to start over. Unfortunately with post-surgery complications and immune-suppressant medication mum caught a potentially lethal infection which prompted her suffering from a severe seizure, resulting in her being induced into a coma to stabilize her. It wasn’t until she was induced into a coma that the doctors were able to discover that she was suffering from a brain infection meningitis-encephalitis. After what felt like forever, mum eventually came home, her memory affected more than ever but she’s still the most amazing, intelligent and strongest person I know- no one can take that away from her, not even a petty brain infection!
Throughout this entire ordeal I sat for my School- Certificate, my HSC, and had begun studying as a full time university student and all the while, working up to 15 hours a week from the age of 15. I found solitude in my studies and my outlet through work. I learnt the valuable life lesson that you can make a positive experience out of every negative aspect in life; I learnt that perseverance is the key to success and that giving up is never an option. I’ve experienced unsympathetic work bosses and cold careless supposed ‘support’ systems at university (which resulted in me receiving an absent fail and having to defer for a semester) and I’ve experienced the lack in financial support and welfare all while my mum has fought to live a normal life.
Caring for her has enlightened me in many ways, giving me perspective as to what matters and how caring for someone teaches you the most valuable lesson in life; To be selfless, forever caring and understanding and to appreciate and be grateful for the time that we’re given and most importantly, to make the most of it. My inspiration every day is knowing that there are so many young carers out there like me who know exactly what that means.

– Young carer, age 21