Sheila Turner, founder of TPAUK – obituary
Many thousands of people have reason to be grateful to Sheila Turner whether they knew her or not. This remarkable woman spent the latter part of her life campaigning for the better diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders.
Sheila was born on the 28th September 1937 in Bingley, Yorkshire. She was separated from her siblings when she was adopted at the age of two following the death of their mother from tuberculosis. She met Howard whilst she was training to be a Nurse and Howard was a Junior Health administrator. They married November 2nd 1957. They had two children, with Susan their daughter, being delivered by Howard in a remote cottage on Sheila’s birthday. Sadly Howard passed away in July 2017, 4 months short of their 60th wedding anniversary.
In 1999 she had the misfortune to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The standard treatment, Levothyroxine did not remove her symptoms and in fact seemed to make her worse. The NHS offered no explanations or help. After several years of worsening health during which time she ended up in a wheelchair, she was forced to visit a private hormone specialist who found that her body could not convert Levothyroxine into the active hormone T3 and prescribed the older treatment Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) which contains all the hormones that a thyroid produces and that a body needs. NDT enabled Sheila to regain her health, she described taking NDT as ‘like the sun coming out’.
It was her search for a NHS prescription for NDT that led her to begin campaigning and to the beginning of Thyroid Patient Advocacy (TPAUK). Despite being in her late sixties Sheila with little experience of computers or the internet decided to try and prevent people from suffering in the way that she had. She developed an online forum and a website to provide sufferers with a place to swap experiences and access information and began an ongoing campaign to challenge medical beliefs and orthodoxy. TPAUK became a charity in 2010.
Such was her dedication that she was always available on the end of a phone to help people personally. Her determination to make sure that sufferers were helped and treatment was changed meant that other parts of her life were put on hold; she was an accomplished painter, as was her supportive husband Howard, whom she had married when she was just 20. Their much-loved cottage in Ickornshaw, Yorkshire was used for meetings and clinics as well as an office for her campaigning.
Her legacy will be the many people who have regained their health with her help and the lives she undoubtedly saved and greatly improved through the information she gathered and provided.
Sheila was a warm, feisty, humorous person and an inspiring leader of the charity she founded. The campaign for the better treatment of hypothyroidism has lost an untiring, well informed and dedicated advocate, although she herself was modest about her achievement. In her own words she was just a seeker after truth.
Sheila Turner 28th September 1937 – 3rd of June 2019