Friday 2 December 2016

'My spine is eroding but surgery could help me to walk again'

Patrick Kelleher

Published 16/08/2016 | 08:33

Elizabeth McNicholas, age 27, who is in need of an operation on her back in England, with her assistance dog Bart at her home in Lucan. Pictures:Arthur Carron
Elizabeth McNicholas, age 27, who is in need of an operation on her back in England, with her assistance dog Bart at her home in Lucan. Pictures:Arthur Carron

A YOUNG Dublin woman is desperately trying to raise money for a life-changing seventh operation that could help her to walk again.

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Elizabeth McNicholas (27) was first diagnosed with a spinal condition that is causing her spine to erode in 2008, just before she sat her Leaving Cert.

"I'd had back pain but never really looked too much into it," said Elizabeth, who lives in Lucan.

"It had got worse that year. Then one Sunday morning I went to get up and couldn't stand up."

Elizabeth has been battling her condition since and has undergone six surgeries on her spine.

Four of those operations were spinal fusion surgeries, all of which failed.

"It keeps getting worse," she said. "After the first operation I could walk again, a little bit, but since the third operation I haven't been able to walk at all."

Elizabeth's situation became even more challenging when she developed narcolepsy, which means she could fall asleep at any time, and adrenal insufficiency two years ago.

As her condition worsened, she had to defer her studies at St Angela's College, where she was studying Home Economics and Irish.

"When I was in college I literally couldn't keep my eyes open during lectures," said Elizabeth. "You're awake but you can't move your body. You can't open your eyes. You're kind of paralysed, locked in. Your brain is still aware but your body is asleep."

The adrenal insufficiency means her body can't cope with stress.

"If you're under any kind of physical or emotional stress your body starts to shut down, so if I get a bug I end up in hospital f or weeks," she said.

"My back is deteriorating all the time. The pain affects me the most because that's what really limits me."

Now Elizabeth and her mother, Brenda, who cares for her full-time, are appealing to the public to help get her life back.

She was referred to a specialist hospital in London last year, but as the referring consultant no longer works in the public system in Ireland she cannot be referred to a public hospital in England.

Her family hope to raise money to send her to England to get the major spinal surgery that could change her life.

Elizabeth's friend has set up a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising €150,000.

The money would help her to get the surgery and would also enable her to spend time in a specialist rehabilitation centre in the US.

To support Elizabeth, you can donate at www.gofundme.com

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