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Mum at risk of being 'decapitated' at any moment to get surgery thanks to mystery £130,000 donation

By Adam Dutton & Steven Smith

A mum with a rare spine condition which could “internally decapitate” her at any moment is to undergo life-saving surgery thanks to a stranger's £130,000 donation. Rachel Pighills, 35, was trying to raise enough funds for pioneering treatment in Spain after she was left with the neck injury.

She had been moving into a new house when she struck her head on a ceiling fan while stood on a bed, causing horrific injuries in August 2018. The freak accident left her with atlanto axial instability and basilar invagination, where her brain is sinking into her spine and her skull is sliding down onto her neck.

It means she can no longer turn her head in a certain direction, as each time she does her spine partially dislocates - increasing her risk of paralysis or death. Rachel and husband Guy, 41, have been desperately trying to raise £350,000 for potentially life-saving treatment in Barcelona for the past two years.

Now an anonymous benefactor has generously come forward to pay the remaining £130,000 that Rachel needed to fund the surgery. She will travel the 1,055 mile, 17-hour journey on May 20 in an old ambulance driven by Guy because 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."

The benefactor from Warwickshire - a woman in her 60s - reached out 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."

Rachel Pighills after her spinal fusion surgery last year (Guy Pighills/SWNS)

Doctors told Rachel her neck can no longer support the weight of her head and one wrong move could cause total dislocation or "internal decapitation". She is confined to a wheelchair and must wear a neck brace for hours a day to stop 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.

“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."

Husband Guy said the situation had become "soul destroying" for the couple and their 14-year-old daughter.

The quality inspector said: "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 donate click here.

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Dive Deeper:
Mystery donor hands over £130,000 to fund woman's life-changing spinal surgery
Rachel Pighills, 35, suffers from a rare spine condition that could "internally decapitate" her at any moment
Athletes with a disability like Ainslee Hooper are finding their place in strength sports
Gyms can be intimidating, but these athletes with a disability are finding their place among the weights, pulling and lifting…
Boy labelled 'attention seeking' actually had aggressive brain tumour
Arthur's parents said they were dismissed by doctors who told them to 'keep an eye on him'
Toddler branded 'attention seeking' by doctors diagnosed with plum-sized tumour
Arthur Ridout was regularly taken to hospital by his worries parents who pleaded with doctors to take their three-year-old's illness…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Doctors told boy his symptoms were 'attention seeking' but it was dangerous tumour
After three-year-old Arthur Ridout was rushed to A&E after falling ill in the park, one medic suggested his symptoms could…
Britain's Got Talent star shares inspirational message after being left paralysed in horror accident
Welsh stuntman Jonathan Goodwin, who has also appeared on the American version of the ITV talent show, was left with…
Get all your news in one place