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Charlotte Simmons' story - rheumatoid arthritis

Charlotte Simmons

Charlotte Simmons is nothing if not adaptable and resourceful.

Going into the final year of a degree in metalwork at university, Charlotte was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

With optimism and determination Charlotte, 21, decided to change courses and began to design stylish, ergonomic cutlery for people with the condition.

Charlotte spotted a great opportunity in a crisis and she seized it.

Tough times

Charlotte explained: “It was summer 2013, after my second year. I was on work experience at British Silverware in Sheffield.

“My leg and foot went numb. I couldn’t stand up. I thought that it was a back spasm.

"It got worse and my neck became affected."

Charlotte got in touch with her parents in Worcester, who immediately drove to take her home.

“I went to A+E two days later,” Charlotte said. “My legs were numb. They thought that I might have been stung by a bee."They thought that I might have been stung by a bee."

“We left it but it got worse and worse. My Dad took me back to the hospital. They didn’t know what to do for ages.

“So we went to the family doctor. As soon as I walked in, he said: ‘I think it’s rheumatoid arthritis; you'll need blood tests’. He was really good.”

Waiting

During the three-month wait for an appointment at her local rheumatology department, Charlotte had very little movement.

“I spent the whole summer sat in the garden,” Charlotte said. “There wasn’t much I could do. My sister had also come back from university and she wanted to take me shopping, but I just didn’t feel like it.”

Charlotte began treatment with a course of steroids and her condition was brought under control.

Charlotte said: “The rheumatology department was very good, but it took a while to see them and get a diagnosis.

“I see a nurse about every two months now and they're very good.”

Steely determination

Charlotte Simmons working on her ergonomic cutleryCharlotte had been due to start her third year at Sheffield Hallam University. She said: “My specialism was hammer work and I couldn’t do that anymore because it affected my whole body.

But Charlotte experiences with arthritis inspired her to change her course from metalwork to an MA in product design, which is due to finish in February 2016.

“Because of my arthritis, I had special cutlery given to me by an occupational therapist. It was huge, blue and very bulky. I really didn’t like it. It didn’t work for me.

“I decided to make my own cutlery.”

Excellent results

Charlotte’s cutlery was tested by an expert and an all-female quality test group, who all have arthritis. They've all given Charlotte’s stylish and practical work glowing references.

Charlotte said: “There have been some excellent results.

“I used olive wood for the handles, because it's pretty easy to shape. There's a silver ferrule attachment.

“It was all pretty easy to do and to put something together. It works for me and for the ladies.”

Lots of interest

Charlotte was invited to showcase her products at Arthritis Research UK's Marketplace event, held at MediCity in Nottingham, which promoted well-designed products that aim to improve the lives of people with arthritis.

Charlotte’s work fitted that bill perfectly and her product was very well received by people in the industry. There's been a lot of interest in her work.

Good design

“That summer before diagnosis was very tough,” Charlotte said. “But it's all come out on a positive note."Good design should be available to all."

“My work is better now than it was before all of this. It's quite exciting.

“Good design should be available to all and not just the few.

"I've always been interested in cutlery and kitchenware. I wanted something that would follow the palm of the hand, but not dig in. I wanted it to also be light and easy to use.

"I'm pleased with how it's going. Hopefully, I can expand and get it out there.

“I'd like to make a difference to people.”

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