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. She deteriorated quickly in the two years following the accident and by May 2018 she was diagnosed with cervical instability – she couldn’t walk, was in constant pain and couldn’t her head up on her own.
Abigail’s consultants recommended specialist surgery on her spine to help stabilise the joint between her back and neck, but her underlying condition meant the specialist surgery could only be performed by a small number of neurosurgeons in the world. 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.
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.
Lucy AAC flew Abigail from Edinburgh to Barcelona in June 2018 and she was able to have her specialist spinal surgery within two days of arriving.
Following her surgery
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. Within only a few days of her surgery she was able to sit fully upright in her wheelchair for long periods before needing to rest. She had 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 where she continued to progress.
Once home, she had physio twice a week to build her strength and stability back up. Within a month of her surgery she was able to walk with a crutches – walking for the first time in two years.
Last Christmas, Abigail’s diagnosis was confirmed and her family were told that the only hope for her would be specialist surgery – 1,500 miles away. This Christmas was very different for the family. Abigail’s dad says: “We watched as the children got up to sing at our carol service and this year and Abigail stood with them. It was very moving to watch and to see the excitement and anticipation on their faces. We had a lovely time over Christmas and New Year with family and friends. Needless to say it was very different from last year!”
In January 2019, seven months after her surgery, Abigail returned to Barcelona for a checkup with her neurosurgeons and they were very pleased with her progress. The CT scan showed bone growth and that the fusion of her head and spine was in the correct place.
Abigail’s dad says: “It was lovely to see all her doctors and the team in Barcelona but also very strange being back. It reminded us how ill she had been, how far she has come, and the amazing support we have all had that enabled the much needed operation.”
Although Abigail still struggles with pain due to her underlying condition, no pain is caused by her neck injury anymore. She is walking with crutches and can walk short distances without them. In two years she has gone from “watching life pass her by from a bed in her parent’s living room” to an active girl who is taking on challenges everyday. Abigail’s dad says: “Thank you all so much for your love, prayers, help and support. Without you, life would be very different for Abigail.”