Florence Nightingale and May 12th: International Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND) Awareness Day

Mark your calendars!  May 12th is International Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND) Awareness Day (This includes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Gulf War Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity).  Wear Blue for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Purple for Fibromyalgia, Yellow for Gulf War Syndrome, and Green and/or Yellow for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.  It’s also International Nurses Day!

What’s so special about May 12th you may ask?  This is the birthday of the famous Florence Nightingale who during the Crimean War (1853-1856) revolutionized hospital care for wounded soldiers.  To this day she is hailed as the Mother of Modern Nursing.  You know what else?  She also struggled with debilitating chronic pain and fatigue for most of her life after the war.

Fun Facts On Florence
Florence was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy to wealthy English parents on a Euro Trip.  She grew up well educated by her dad despite current social pressures against women’s academics.  From a young age she felt called to be a nurse (a then unprofessional occupation considered “beneath” women of privilege), and finally with the reluctant blessing of her parents, in 1850 she started nursing school in Germany.   By 1853 she landed a job as a hospital superintendent in London, and that’s when things started getting crazy.

Later In 1853, the Crimean War broke out.  The British and French allied with the Turkish Empire against the Russian takeover.  Medical care for the soldiers was atrocious as more died from unsanitary conditions and improper care than from battle wounds.  In 1854 Florence was asked to gather an emergency team of 30+ nurses to help at a hospital in Turkey.  Conditions were horrific, and she soon turned the place upside down with new standards of cleanliness, proper food, and much needed supplies.  She worked tirelessly day and night and became known as “The Lady With The Lamp”.

When the war ended in 1856, she returned to England a hero, but not without being infected with what some believe was Brucellosis (“Crimean Fever”), a disease from which she never really recovered.  She suffered from chronic pain and fatigue that often made her bedridden for the rest of her inspiring life.

Sickness didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams, though.  Later in 1856, she met with Queen Victoria about military medical reform based on her detailed notes from Turkey.  Her ideas were implemented in other countries too!  For example, she was consulted about best medical practices by the USA during the Civil War.  In 1860 she opened the Nightingale School of Nursing and a couple years later opened a school for midwives.  Throughout the rest of her life, she wrote many books, professionalized nursing, and was given multiple awards for all her achievements in international medical, educational and social reform.  How did she do it?  “I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.”  She was amazing!

So, That Was Florence.  What About Me?
Reading stories about the famous Florence Nightingale is both inspiring and daunting.  This lady had a stubborn passion for life that wasn’t changed by chronic pain and fatigue, or so it seems.  My reality is different, and I’m sure I’m not alone!  I got to be careful comparing myself with such an epic life, but I am challenged.  Maybe it’s not that I need to exhaust myself doing more things.  Maybe it’ simply about not giving up.  Maybe it’s about living passionately.  Being more determined.  Hoping.

Here’s to May 12th and all the beautiful lives we take time to appreciate.  You are all fighting a battle worth fighting.  Here’s to not giving up, living passionately and being stinkin’ determined (even if it’s just to get out of bed today).  Here’s to HOPE.

I’ll be wearing blue.  What color will you?



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