A UK woman injured by a ceiling fan was left with a rare condition that could “internally decapitate her” – and she is now trying to raise enough money to travel to a Long Island surgeon for a complex operation, according to a report.
Rachel Pighills, 35, of Worcestershire, suffered the debilitating injury when she was struck in the head by the fan while standing on her bed as she moved into a new house in 2018, SWNS reported.
The freak accident left the woman with atlantoaxial instability and basilar invagination – a life-threatening condition in which her skull and brain have slipped into her spine, causing a bone to protrude into her brain stem, her husband Guy, 41, wrote on a GoFundMe page.
As a result, Pighills can no longer turn her head at the wrong angle at risk of her spine partially dislocating, which could result in paralysis or death from an “internal decapitation.”
“After further investigations many complex tests show a rapid deterioration of her brainstem function, which can shut down completely at any time, leading to brainstem death,” Guy wrote.
In January 2020, she underwent an occipital spinal fusion surgery to relieve the compression from her brain stem and improve her quality of life, he said.
A surgeon used rods and screws to fix her skull to her spine and then removed a piece of bone from her skull and spine to create more room for her brain, he said.
But the doctor, who had been new to the procedure, reportedly failed in the effort.
“Because of the brain stem compression, the signals are all incorrect. The brain stem subconsciously controls everything,” Guy told SWNS.
“Her heart rate can go from 60 to 140 in the click of a finger. The signals are getting confused,” he said. “There is no quality of life now, she is just gasping for breath. She ideally needs none-invasive therapy for her breathing but it is complicated.”
The devoted husband added: “It has left me feeling heartbroken and helpless.”
Rachel’s only hope appears to be groundbreaking surgery by Dr. Paolo Bolognese, reportedly the only surgeon in the world prepared to perform the ultra-delicate procedure.
In 2014, the Italian native joined Neurological Surgery, P.C., as the director of The Chiari Neurosurgical Center, according to his bio. He is affiliated with North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.
“Nothing else will work. My only option is to have decompression surgery and the sooner I have that, the better my chance of having a complete reversal of symptoms and full recovery,” Rachel said.
“It would mean me leaving my teenage daughter here for school, but she understands how serious this is and how life-changing it could be,” added Rachel, who described living in “constant fear of paralysis and death.”
“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,” said Rachel, who uses a neck brace and is confined to a wheelchair.
The family has so far raised about $64,000 but needs $650,000 for the operation.
“Sadly time is crucial now as Rachel is in respiratory failure and every day I am witnessing her deterioration,” her husband wrote. “The quicker we can raise the funds the more hope we have of her making a full recovery. Rachel is now unable to leave the house unaided and has no quality of life.”
He added: “Watching my wife suffer and dying before my eyes is soul-destroying. Our daughter constantly worries that she may come home from school one day to find out she’s lost her Mum for good.
“All Rachel wants is to stop living in fear of dying and leaving her family behind. Rachel’s hopes and dreams are like all mums, she wants to watch our daughter grow up and one day be a proud mum at her wedding,” he wrote about the 14-year-old girl.