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Alexandra environment 'made me panic'

A senior teacher at the Alexandra School is blaming a 2011 panic attack on the increasingly volatile environment at the institution where she went to school and has taught for the last 20 years.

Physical Education teacher Sonia Ifill said today the diagnosis came from a doctor who tended to her after she suffered the attack on her way to work one morning.

She was giving evidence today at the Commission of Enquiry into Alexandra, where she told sole Commissioner Frederick Waterman that up until then she never took sick leave and was only away from school through injury from sporting accidents.

“They took me to Sandy Crest because that was the closest medical facility and during the assessment and speaking to the doctor she was asking me if everything was okay with me home wise and I started to have a conversation with her about my son and things like that,” she remembered.

“When she got to the point and asked me ‘Well what is the situation at work?’, I remember that I paused, I looked at her and then the shaking started again.

“So she calmed me down and she started again to ask me about my son to get me calm and when she asked me again a second time about work it started again, and from her diagnosis of the situation she basically told me that it has to be work related, what I was experiencing that day and she basically pinned it down to that I was having a panic attack,” she added.

Ifill said the doctor referred her to counseling, but that she could not present this as evidence to the commission because the professionals she saw there said they could only give her the necessary documentation for legal reasons.

“However, I would say … prior to all of this tension I had never had sick leave. I went through my pregnancy and I never was away from work because of high pressure or any of the expected medical conditions that would plague females beyond the age of 40 during pregnancy,” she said.

“I had a very good pregnancy because I was happy, I was working, I was attending cricket even in pregnancy, I could be seen going to cricket games on Saturday with my gear bag, with the equipment for the boys and I was happy going to work.

“My medical situation changed when I had to start forcing myself not to want to communicate with my students for fear of the students being victimised when they are seen with me. That was when my unhappiness started,” she added. (SC)

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