Sunday, 22 September 2013

So, Dr House, it sometimes is lupus – former BBC news babe turned artist Triona Holden is proof of that

There always came a point early in every episode of the American TV series, House, where a member of diagnostic supremo Hugh Laurie’s team would put forward lupus as the cause of the patient-of-the-week’s mystery life-threatening illness, and Dr House would growl “It’s never lupus”. But of course it quite often is. The incurable autoimmune condition, whose causes are unknown, can attack any part of the body. Typical symptoms include joint pain, skin rashes, blinding headaches and the sort of persistent exhaustion which makes work genuinely impossible. For some reason, 90% of the victims are adult women of child-bearing age.

I was going through an eerily accurate Linked-In “People You Might Know” list this morning (as a means of delaying having to do the ironing) when Triona Holden’s name cropped up. She was a BBC news reporter and occasional newsreader when I worked for TV News between 1986 and 2007. Our paths rarely crossed, but I was an admirer: she was no-nonsense, straightforward, professional, and, let’s be honest, distinctly cute in a tiny, feisty sort of way. Quite a few of our correspondents at the time struck me as either bonkers, politically biased or downright nasty – sometimes all three in one glorious package  - but Ms Holden seemed to be none of these things. I always assumed that when she’d had enough of whizzing around the globe dodging bullets or churning out domestic news reports (she was mugged during the Brixton riots) that she’d settle into a lead or support presenter role on one of the main news bulletins and become a dads’ favourite.

What I hadn’t realised was that she fell ill  after picking up a virus on a visit to a Romanian orphanage some ten years ago, and that what was eventually diagnosed as lupus ended her news career. The BBC did its very best to help, but she was just too ill. She has subsequently reinvented herself as a professional artist after borrowing a watercolour painting set from one of her two daughters during a stay in St Thomas’s hospital following a near-death experience, and discovering that she had talent. Her partner at the time left her, but, hearteningly, she subsequently met and married a professor of military psychology (and ex-SAS doctor). You can read the whole story in this Daily Mail article (here).

It’s obvious from this 2012 TV interview that she still suffers from crippling exhaustion – but the feist is evidently still there:


I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself recently, because I’ve been suffering from one of my irregular bouts of extreme tiredness. A not particularly arduous and enjoyable trip across London yesterday left me seriously wondering whether I could manage the ten-minute trip back to house from our local tube station. But reading about Triona Holden’s appalling experience of illness this morning left me ashamed of being so wet, thanking God that I don’t have lupus, and full of admiration for one of the many excellent (and occasionally fanciable) people I worked with at the BBC.

Triona Holden's website can be found here.

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