British woman to seek rare surgery in Spain

A BRITISH woman with a rare condition, which means that a simple turn of her head could be fatal, is hoping to travel to Barcelona for pioneering surgery.

Rachel Pighills, 33, and her husband Guy, 39, have been trying to raise the €150,000 necessary for an operation on her rare condition, But just three surgeons in the world know how to perform it, and one of them is in Spain.

In layman’s terms, she said: “Her neck cannot withstand the weight of her head, and if she turns her head to the left, she could partially dislocate the cervical column in her neck. If it dislocates completely, it would be like an internal decapitation,” and she would die instantly.

It’s no wonder, then, that Guy worries all the time when he is at work.

Rachel wears a collar, but for just four hours a day, since any longer would mean losing muscle mass in her neck and head, and that would exacerbate the problem. Her condition is known as Basilar Invagination, which means the upper part of her cervical column pushes against the base of her skull.

She also has an atlantoaxial instability, or compression of the spinal cord, making it difficult to move her neck, and platybasia, a developmental deformity of the base of the skull, which flattens it and pushes the vertebrae into it, and cervical medullary syndrome, caused by her craniocervical instability and brainstem compression.

Rachel needs a double operation urgently; firstly, to remove the axial vertebra compressing her brainstem, and, secondly, to fuse her skull and neck together. So far, she and Guy have saved up €14,000 towards her operation, which cannot be carried out in the UK because no surgeon there is able to perform it.

But the thought of a flight to Barcelona terrifies the couple, because an abrupt movement by the aircraft could cause a dislocation. Yet they are trying to stay strong for their young son’s sake.

The supermarket manager says: “I’m thinking about the pressure in the cabin, the force of take-off and being trapped against the back of a chair. I don’t know how my body’s going to react.”

She was diagnosed in July, and, she said: “I just want to live a normal life, with a bit of independence.”

Guy added: “I’ll be at work and scared to death, thinking, what am I going to find when I get home? Will she be okay?”.

Their Barcelona trip will take four days, and it is not clear whether Rachel will be able to undergo the operation during that time, or whether more cash will be needed. If she has surgery and all goes according to plan, her complex and life-threatening condition will be cured, completely!


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Posted by on Oct 31 2019. Filed under World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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