Interview: Sharron Naidoo on her 'invisible disability'
We spoke with Sharron Naidoo, Supervisor of the CIC Networks at Vodacom, about the daily challenges of living with Fibromyalgia.
*Update on 11 November 2021: Sharron Naidoo has sadly passed away.
Sharron Naidoo has been with the Vodacom family for the last 21 years, having joined the company just before the dawn of the new century, in 1999, where she currently holds the position of Supervisor of the CIC Networks
Sharron also suffers from a chronic pain syndrome, which is medically known as Fibromyalgia and is a disability. We spoke with her about her day-to-day experience with it and the challenges that it brings:
Could you please give us a brief overview of your disability and the challenges that it brings to your daily life?
I have an invisible disability that I don’t tell many people about, as I have to go into a long-winded explanation. People don’t see you as disabled if you don’t have an arm missing, or a leg missing, or an assistive device to help you. I suffer from chronic pain syndrome, which is medically known as Fibromyalgia. I also have other underlying issues that were caused by a car accident and a botched wisdom teeth removal.
This condition causes soft tissue pain and in my case myofascial pain as well. My symptoms are widespread and include pain, tiredness, constant headaches, insomnia, as well as pins and needles in my hands and feet. My fingers sometimes become frozen and stuck when I am carrying heavy objects for too long. I have a deep coldness in my body and it can drop to below 32 degrees at times. I experience restless legs syndrome at night and also get sudden sharp pains that just take me by surprise at any time of the day and night. I have been told that unfortunately there is no cure for what I have, and so I have been dealing with these symptoms for the last 20 years of my life.
How has Vodacom as a company adapted to assist you with your disability?
I am proud to work in a company that is very tech-savvy and forward-thinking. In my case, it can become difficult to hold a pen and book for a long period of time, as well as work on a laptop with a small screen and keyboard.
Our IT department accommodated me by providing me with a 20-inch screen which makes life much easier. Vodacom has provided me with an amazing chair that helps support my torso. Fibromyalgia sufferers experience pain in their whole body that can often feel like they have been brutally attacked. The fact that I have a job and an amazing one at that, is my motivation to get up each day and embrace the world.
What do you wish able-bodied people did more or less of for people who have a disability – at home, socially and in the workplace?
Patience and understanding. Depression, pain, fatigue is something that plagues me every day. The fact that no one coddles me or treats me any different gives me the motivation to 'get up and go' each and every day.
Who are some of your role models - who have a disability?
Lady Gaga and Morgan Freeman are fibromyalgia sufferers. I applaud their energy and dedication on stage and off. Myself – I always strive to be better each day.
Karen Smit – She is like a glass of champagne! Karen is a mother, an advocate for disabled people, a professional businesswoman and is a friend to everyone that gets the pleasure of meeting her.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15% of the world's population has a disability and only 48% of working-age people living with a disability are employed. These stats show that it is critical that companies become more inclusive and embrace diversity in all its forms. This is why Vodacom has made it our mission to build an inclusive culture where everyone is respected, can be themselves and strives to be their best.