‘I’d rather give birth 5 times a day than this’ says mum with rare condition syringomyelia

Donna Thornburrow, 34, from Currock, Carlisle, who suffers from chiari malformation, a condition where the lower part of the brain pushes down into the spinal canal; 15 November 2016. PAULA THANNER

Donna Thornburrow

A woman suffering from an incurable illness hopes to raise awareness of it and meet others in a similar condition

The most heartbreaking part of Donna Thornborrow’s situation is that she feels like a failure.

The 34-year-old keeps a track of her symptoms in a journal: short term memory loss, sleep apnea, confusion, slurring speech, struggling to walk, balance issues, muscle weakness, swallowing problems, incontinence, shooting back pains and mind hammering headaches.

At the bottom of one of the pages, outlined in a circle is written: “Biggest one is I feel like a failure”.

Donna, of Lediard Avenue, Currock, Carlisle, suffers from Arnold Chiari malformation type two and Syringomyelia. She was prompted to speak out about the conditions after seeing Lauren Gill’s article in the News and Star.

Lauren, 28, of St Elizabeth Close, Harraby, Carlisle, also suffers from Chiari malformation, an incurable condition where part of the cerebellum and brainstem descends below the opening at the base of the skull, and Syringomyelia, a disorder in which a cyst or cavity forms within the spinal cord.

The News & Star published a story about her shopping trip to Aldi when she discovered she had lost her credit card at the till but was saved by cashier Fi Parkinson, who paid for her shopping.

A post about the moment of kindness was published on Spotted: Carlisle’s Facebook page and has been shared and liked more than 6,300 times.

Donna and Lauren have not met but they are in touch as both say it is useful to talk to someone suffering from the same conditions.

Donna’s life, like Lauren’s, has been completely transformed by the Arnold Chiari malformation and Syringomyelia.

Three years ago, Donna was working full time as a mental health nurse in a Carlisle care home when she started feeling depressed.

“I loved it, I absolutely loved my job and all the people I worked with,” said Donna. But she had to leave as her symptoms worsened and she started feeling very dizzy and off balance.

“It was like I was drunk,” said Donna. “I was too scared to tell anybody. I thought I was going crazy.”

Since her symptoms started about three years ago, Donna has become virtually housebound. She had a major operation on her brain last year to try and alleviate her symptoms but she is still in constant pain.

“I would go through childbirth five times a day rather than that [pain],” she said. “I can’t move. I end up living in my bedroom.”

Donna said she feels like a failure because she can’t look after her three children: Amy Bain, 12, Aidan Bain, 14 and Josh Bain, 18.

The three children live at home with her and help care for her, along with other carers.

She misses many things about having a good bill of health, especially working.

Donna said: “I miss being a normal person. I feel like I’m failing my kids because I feel like I’m not being a proper mum to them.

“I have got carers coming in twice a day to help out. I shouldn’t have to have them at my age.”

Donna is hoping to get a new wheelchair at the end of November so she can start going out on her own for the first time in more than two years.

She said since her illness started more than two years ago she has lost many friends and her social life is virtually non existent.

She also wants to connect with other people suffering from similar conditions in the local area and hopes that by speaking out she will raise awareness of Chiari malformation and Syringomyelia and its devastating symptoms.


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