Finding a job can be troublesome due to a competitive work force and the limited number of job positions available. For 45-year-old Tracey Kenny, landing a job on her own two feet is a burdensome task — she is allergic to shoes.
The former baker and mother-of-four from Greater Manchester, U.K., who has been on disability for contact dermatitis for two decades, is now being told by the Department of Work and Pensions that her benefits will be stopped since she is ruled fit to work.
“They’re questioning my doctor’s ability as a doctor. She sees me and knows me more than a ten-minute assessment does,” said Kenny, the Daily Mail reports.
Kenny contracted severe dermatitis roughly at the age of 18. She first became aware of her condition when she was working as a baker and realized her hands started blistering. Kenny was referred to a skin hospital where the doctors told her the detergents used at the bakery provoked her skin reaction. Despite doctors' orders to be cautious, the former baker continued her line of work, but soon realized her condition got worse and started to affect her face.
Kenny had several jobs after being a baker. She worked in a shop, but later developed a dust allergy. Lastly, Kenny worked at a warehouse packing leaflets in magazines until her allergies began to flare up again.
“I worked up until I was 21. Since then I haven’t worked basically because things just got worse and worse,” she said.
Doctors ran a series of allergy tests on Kenny when she was diagnosed with a nickel allergy. This allergen prohibits her from touching keys, coins, or using knives and forks.
According to the Mayo Clinic, allergic contact dermatitis — a form of eczema — occurs when substances that touch the skin cause irritation or an allergic reaction. Typically, contact dermatitis can be spotted on the skin due to the appearance of red, itchy rashes, bumps, and sometimes blisters that last anywhere from two to four weeks and can be very comfortable for the patient. Common allergens include natural rubber, metals such as nickel, costume jewelry, perfume, cosmetics, hair dyes, and plants, including poison ivy.
It has been nearly impossible for Kenny to hold down a job because of her painful allergies to allergens like rubber, glue, nickel, and metal, which she insists leave her skin blistered and sore.
"I just don’t know what to do. I can only wear shoes for 10 or 15 minutes, before my feet blister and split,” she told the Manchester Evneing News. “Socks draw the glue in and slippers don’t help. It’s so unfair and stressful – I’m genuinely ill. Sick people are suffering because the government want more money.”
Doctors at Salford Royal NHS Foundatrion Trust have even organized a pair of clogs to be made in Switzerland for the patient. The specially designed shoe for Kenny took two years to make as a tree was cut down to make a shoe with no dyes. Unfortunately, they still irritated her.
Kenny’s allergies is not the only health complication that she faces. She also suffers from diabetes and thyroid problems. The mother-of-four does acknowledge her allergy is also linked to stress. “It doesn’t help that my 22-year-old son Joshua is serving in Afghanistan,” she said.
Flare-ups triggered by stress are fairly common for dermatitis. The flare-ups usually occur when the person is exposed to certain trigger factors, such as emotional stress, heat, and sweating, according to the National Eczema Association.
After Kenny’s Oct. 2 hearing, which officially declared $152 would be withdrawn from her benefits per week, the patient is now worried about landing a job without compromising her skin condition. Her severe dermatitis caused by all of her footwear has left her unable to hold down a job for two decades.
The Manchester Evening News reached out to the Department of Work and Pensions, but a spokesman said that he was not able to comment on individual cases. The spokesman did say that the government was committed to helping unemployed members go back to work if they are deemed capable by government officials.
“A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant,” he told the Manchester Evening News.
To learn more about dermatitis, visit nationaleczema.org.