Mystery donor hands over £130,000 to fund woman’s life-changing spinal surgery

A mum whose rare spine condition could “internally decapitate” her at any time has been given £130,000 by a mystery donor to undergo life-saving surgery.

Rachel Pighills, 35, had been trying to raise enough money for pioneering treatment in Spain after she was left with a neck injury. Wales Online reports that she had been moving into a new house when she struck her head on a ceiling fan while standing on a bed in August 2018, causing horrific injuries.

The freak accident left her with what’s called ‘atlanto axial instability and basilar invagination’, where her brain is sinking into her spine and her skull is sliding down onto her neck. It has left her unable to turn her head in a certain direction as, each time she does, her spine partially dislocates and increases her risk of paralysis or death.

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Rachel and her husband Guy, 41, have been desperately trying to raise £350,000 for potentially life-saving treatment in Barcelona for the past two years and now, thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous benefactor, she will travel the 1,055 mile, 17 -hour journey on May 20 in an old ambulance which will be driven by Guy as she is too unwell to fly.

Rachel, of Pershore, Worcestershire, said: “No amount of words can express what it means to us and how grateful we are. She really is our guardian angel.

“I can’t believe somebody I’ve never even met could do such a thing for us. I’m terrified, I’m not going to lie. But we’ve got to do this. It’s going to be hard but I ‘m excited as well as being terrified.”

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The benefactor from Warwickshire is a woman in her 60s, who reached out to Rachel and Guy after seeing her story broadcast on the local BBC news.

Updating well-wishers on their fundraising page, Guy wrote: “Our prayers have been answered and a miracle has happened. We are absolutely blown away that someone would do this for us, it really is a blessing and no amount of words can express how eternally grateful we are.

“Please continue praying for Rachel, and her surgical team in Barcelona whilst we hopefully look forward to the next chapter in our lives.”

Doctors told Rachel that her neck is no longer able to support the weight of her head and one wrong move could cause total dislocation or “internal decapitation”, so she is currently confined to a wheelchair and has to wear a neck brace for a number of hours each day to prevent her neck from slipping.

Speaking previously, Rachel said: “I live in constant fear of paralysis and death. It’s hard to describe that feeling. I feel like I can’t do anything. I go to work for a few hours a day, come home and lie horizontally on the couch.

“I do not do anything else. If I’d banged my head it does not bear thinking about what might have happened. I hardly sleep. I can’t go out really.

Rachel Pighills after her spinal fusion surgery last year

“A trip to the supermarket is a day out for us. We used to walk around castles and English Heritage sites together, now I can’t even make it around the supermarket without a wheelchair. I’m a determined person and I have to try and do what I can. I know I can’t give up.”

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Husband Guy, who works as a quality inspector, said the situation had become “soul destroying”, not just for the couple but also for their 14-year-old daughter. He added: “Watching my wife suffer and dying before my eyes has left me feeling heartbroken and helpless. Rachel is now unable to leave the house unaided and has no quality of life.

“Rachel is suffering every day and her deterioration is rapid. All she wants is her health and independence back, and to stop living in fear of dying and leaving her family behind.”

To view the couple’s GoFundMe page and donate, click here.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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