12th May is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) International Awareness Day. On this important day, organisations and individuals recognise and support the millions of people world-wide who are affected by ME/CFS and other chronic immunological and neurologic diseases by raising public awareness. In fact, 12th May is International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND). The CIND illnesses include Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).
12th May was chosen as it is the birthday (in 1820) of the pioneering British army nurse, Florence Nightingale, who inspired the establishment of the International Red Cross; the world’s first secular School of Nursing (at St Thomas’ Hospital in London) and is recognised as ‘The Founder of Professional Nursing’. She came to prominence for her work during the Crimean War becoming an icon of nursing in the persona of “The Lady with the Lamp” making rounds of wounded soldiers at night. In recognition of her pioneering nursing work, the Nightingale Pledge is taken by new nurses in the United states, and the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve, is named in her honour.
It is a lesser known fact that Florence Nightingale was bedridden for a long period of her later life due to an unidentified chronic illness which has subsequently been attribited as M.E. Drawing inspiration from her life and work, US M.E. advocate Tom Hennesey launced the first International ME Awareness Day in 1992. Since then, International ME Awareness Day has become the focal point for many awareness raising, lobbying, and other M.E. initiatives globally.
Image – Amanda Slater from Coventry, West Midlands, UK, Wikimedia Commons