A FORMER Worcester woman has made an emotional plea for help to raise the £135,000 needed for life-saving surgery after surgeons revealed her condition is now at a critical stage.
Rachel Pighills, 33, revealed the devastating diagnosis which emerged from a consultation with her specialist Dr Gilete in Barcelona last week.
The mum of one suffers from atlantoaxial instability, which means her spine partially dislocates each time she turns her head to the left, increasing her risk of paralysis. Should it fully dislocate, Rachel will die.
The pressure being put on her brain stem by her spine is now at a critical stage, leaving the family with a desperate race to fund the surgery.
Rachel faces two life-saving operations, an adenoidectomy where part of the section of her neck which is compressing her brain stem will be removed.
Dr Gilete, one of just three specialists in the world capable of the procedure, will then operate to fuse her spinal cord from the base of her skull to just above her shoulder blades.
The procedure will mean Rachel will lose the ability to turn her neck in either direction but will save her life.
“There are risks from the surgery from complications to death. But without the surgery I am going to die anyway so it’s a risk I need to take,” she said.
Husband Guy said: “Dr Gilete has told us everyone has two options: surgery or no surgery but in Rachel’s case doing nothing is not an option.”
The plea for help comes more than two years after Rachel first fell ill, though the gravity of her situation was only fully revealed this summer.
She was initially diagnosed with Addison’s Disease months after first feeling ill in September 2017 just weeks after a holiday in Spain and a ‘totally normal life’ according to the couple.
Her wedding dress, initially a size 12, was taken in to a size six days before her wedding in February 2018 after she lost a staggering two stone in six weeks.
“I was eating chocolate cake and ice cream for breakfast, I must have been the only bride trying to put weight on,” Rachel said.
The couple began their journey to discovering the true nature of Rachel’s condition after she banged her head on a ceiling fan weeks after moving to Pershore from Worcester.
Things began to ‘spiral out of control’ following the blow and led to the life-changing diagnosis this summer which has left Rachel in a neck brace for the whole day, apart from meal-times.
As well as the atlantoaxial instability and pressure on her brain stem, the 33-year-old also suffers from breathing and bladder problems and a condition which means whenever she stands up her heart rate rockets to 200 beats per minute, more than double the healthy level.
Should the funding bid be successful, Rachel will be in a halo for a week before the surgery to fuse her neck and will be in Barcelona for six weeks before a long rehabilition.
Despite her condition, Rachel has vailiantly tried to retain her independence.
“I’m trying to go to work still. I can’t drive, someone comes and picks me up everyday and carries my bags into work and can bring me home,” she said.
“I am trying to do what I can while I still can. Going to work is the only interaction with people apart from Guy and my daughter and all the appointments I have. We still have bills to pay and I need to have a sense of normality.”
“We used to walk around castles and English Heritage sites together, now I can’t even make it around the supermarket without a wheelchair,” she added.
Visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/zpefq9-rachel039s-fight-for-life for more.