LAINEY PELLOW was just eight years old when she came down with glandular fever. In a sense she never recovered.
Now 17 and a student at Greenhead College, Lainey lives with the debilitating condition ME which she believes began all those years ago.
"I just didn’t seem to get better," she said. I just kept getting lots of bugs and being off school."
It wasn’t until she was 11 and entering high school that Lainey was finally diagnosed with ME – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.
The condition has many symptoms and sufferers experience a wide range of health problems.
Lainey, who lives in Marsh, has most of the common symptoms.
She is often extremely tired and plagued with headaches and joint ache. Insomnia is also a problem, adding to the feeling of daytime fatigue.
Although her school attendance has been seriously affected by the condition, with many absences – she missed most of Year 7 and for a while attended on a part-time basis – Lainey still managed to secure 10 GCSEs, including eight As and 2 Bs. She was predicted straight A stars.
Lainey fits the profile of the high-achieving ME sufferer, as does fellow ME patient Lisa Hoyle, 19, from Salendine Nook.
One of the theories is that such people push themselves to achieve even when ill and stress their immune systems.
A former Greenhead College student, Lisa was diagnosed with viral meningitis five years ago and was bed bound for months afterwards.
"I was so ill I was only awake for a couple of hours a day,’’ she said. "When I first got ill I don’t think the doctors knew what to do with me and my parents were really worried."
Like Lainey, Lisa missed a lot of schooling but still got 10 GCSEs, all A* to B.
At primary and high schools – they both attended Salendine Nook High – the girls say there was an understanding of their problems and teachers helped them to catch up with missing work.
But once they moved to Greenhead College, the pressure of AS and A level courses proved to be too much for Lisa. "For the first three months I was fine and then I would come home from college and just sleep until the next day,’’ she said. "It carried on like that for a while but I couldn’t get any homework done.
"I asked to drop my lessons by half and stick to two subjects instead of four, but it didn’t work.."
In the end she dropped out of sixth form college after only a few months and has been unable to work or study since.
The condition fluctuates so much that at times Lisa has been forced to use a wheelchair.
ME, she says, has destroyed her plans to go to university and means that all she can manage at the moment is to offer her services as a classroom assistant at her old school for a couple of hours a week.
"I tried working in a charity shop but I just couldn’t handle being on my feet for four hours at a time," she said.
In the 1980s when ME began to emerge as a complaint in its own right rather than a vague raft of symptoms that could be attributed to other conditions, many doctors were reluctant to make a diagnosis.
Even today, Lisa says ME is misunderstood.
"GPs are not keen on it,’’ she said. "I had to change mine.
"It’s hard for other people to understand because you usually look all right.
"But I’ve got ambitions and I want to work. There’s no reason why I would want to sit around doing nothing, but people judge you."
Once she was 17 Lisa was finally referred to the Leeds And West Yorkshire Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Service, based at Seacroft Hospital in Leeds. Lainey is still waiting for an appointment.
"There is no treatment or cure," said Lisa. "But I have found it very helpful going to the unit. Whenever I have a relapse I can go and see them and they suggest ways to manage the condition."
The cost of ME to young people like Lainey and Lisa is often a blighted education, lost opportunities and friendships.
Lainey says her plans to study medicine have had to be abandoned and she is now interested in pursuing a career in art.
"I don’t think I could deal with going to university, so it has stopped me from doing that," she said.
Each says that good friends have stuck by them but they have a smaller friendship circle than others of the same age.
This is because the constant fatigue has prevented them from socialising.
Family life has also been affected and, like most sufferers, they have faced depression and asked the question: "Why me?’’
But there a positive outlook for both Lainey and Lisa. Statistically, young ME patients tend to recover faster than those who acquire the condition when older.
It gives them some hope for the future.
According to the charity Action for ME, there are 25,000 young people and children with the condition in the UK and 250,000 sufferers in total of all ages.
Common symptoms range from muscle and joint pain, headaches, fatigue, concentration difficulties, sleep abnormalities, digestion problems, increased sensitivity to medication, alcohol and chemicals and intolerances to some foods, noise and odours.
Typically, sufferers have relapses and setbacks.
ME often arrives after a bout of glandular fever or flu and sufferers are found to have abnormalities of the nervous and immune systems.
Genetics may play a part. More women than men have ME.