In April 2016, at only nine years old, Abigail’s life was put on hold after she sustained head and neck injuries when she fell from her bed.
Abigail’s underlying condition of Joint Hypermobility Syndrome meant the fall affected her more than it would any other child. She began to experience headaches and dizziness and within a matter of weeks they became constant making it difficult for Abigail to balance.
By August 2016, at ten years old, she had lost the ability to walk. Within six months Abigail went from being an active child, always horse riding and playing with her siblings, to watching life pass her by from a bed in her parent’s living room.
Abigail was diagnosed with cervical instability which meant her neck no longer supported her head which required Abigail to wear a neck brace 24/7. Despite regular physiotherapy, Abigail’s condition continued to deteriorate. The pain of swallowing forced her to be fed through a tube and her back and neck pain became chronic.
In May 2018, Abigail’s consultants recommended specialist surgery on her spine to help stabilise the joint between her back and neck. Abigail’s family were thrilled – it seemed like a big step towards Abigail regaining a normal life.
However, her underlying condition meant the specialist surgery could only be performed by a small number of neurosurgeons in the world and Abigail was told she needed to travel to Barcelona to receive the surgery. The potential date for the surgery was in a months’ time – allowing little time for all the arrangements that needed to be made – but missing the date would mean postponing it for another three months.
Although a positive step forward for Abigail, her family were left with the daunting task of raising over £100,000 to cover the cost of the surgery by a specialist team in Barcelona, as well as the medical flights, insurance and accommodation – all in only four weeks.
Andy, Abigail’s dad, set up a crowdfunding page to share Abigail’s story. He couldn’t have imagined the attention and generosity her story would generate. Within nine days Abigail’s story had reached thousands and her fundraising page had reached over £100,000. In response, Abigail’s dad, Andy, said: “We can find no words to express our gratitude, love and thankfulness. We appreciate each and every donation given.”
As Andy started to arrange a private ambulance for Abigail, Lucy Air Ambulance for Children (Lucy AAC) was contacted by one of their service providers who informed them about Abigail’s story. Within four days Lucy AAC confirmed they could fund Abigail’s flight and had arranged all the necessary transport; taking a big weight off Andy’s shoulders.
With Abigail’s crowdfunding page now, on over £110,000 and with the cost of travel being alleviated by Lucy AAC, Andy was thrilled to be able to have extra funds to look after Abigail. In thanks, Andy says: “You have all given Abigail hope for the future and we know that you share in our longing for her to get better. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity shown to us and we are so pleased Lucy AAC could assist with the arrangements and costs of Abigail’s travel to Barcelona.
“The extra funds provide a contingency in the event that she needs any additional surgery in June or at a later date. It will also assist with extra rehabilitation over the coming months. Thank you all so much, the support and prayers we have received have been overwhelming but wonderful.”
In early June, Abigail flew from Edinburgh to Barcelona with her mum. Her dad and siblings flew separately and met her at the hospital in Barcelona. The family were staying in an apartment not far from the hospital whilst Abigail had her surgery. Her pre-surgery scans and consultations were brought forward to ensure the best team of surgeons were in place for her. Within two days of reaching Barcelona, Abigail had her specialist spinal surgery – the surgeons were very happy with how everything went.
Abigail progressed quickly in the weeks following her surgery. Before her surgery Abigail couldn’t hold her own head up and had chronic pain and dizziness. Now, she is able to sit fully upright in her wheelchair for long periods before needing to rest. She has no dizziness, just a slight head rush when going from lying to sitting. She was able to leave the hospital and the family were able to enjoy their first meal together in over a year and a half.
At the beginning of July Lucy AAC flew Abigail home to Edinburgh. Abigail has a long road ahead of her but she is improving every day.
Watch Abigail’s story here: