Chronic Sufferers Find Support From Social Networks
The Internet has proven to be an invaluable and vital tool for many thousands of people suffering from chronic illnesses worldwide. As well as being a wealth of information to those searching about specific illnesses, many networking sites provide contact with fellow sufferers, enabling them to compare tips on making life easier and giving them a network of friends who can empathize. Many of these sites were started by patients who found that health professionals cannot provide the type of advice found through personal experience.
For example, My Invisible Disabilities Community is a social network that was started in 2008 by Sherri Connell and her husband. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and Lyme disease at the age of 27, Sherri started posting online journal entries for the benefit of her friends and family. Before long Sherri had people from all over the world contacting her and comparing stories about their similar health problems. The group has grown to 2 300 members.
Many sufferers are homebound and unable to venture out into the community, so using the Internet provides them with a social network that many able-bodied people may take for granted.
Sean Fogerty, who has multiple sclerosis and is recovering from brain cancer, spends an hour and a half chatting with other patients online and feels that just being able to connect with other people has literally saved his life. John Linna, from Wisconsin, began blogging after having to stay home on a ventilator. About his experience, he wrote, “That day my little world began to expand. Soon I had a little neighbourhood. It was like stopping in for coffee every day just to see how things were going.”
People from all over the world mourned the death of Mr. Linna earlier this year. It is gratifying to see that the Internet can enrich the lives of so many people and be such an invaluable source of support and information.