Wedding planner Deborah Alexander has severe scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, and is facing lengthy delays to get corrective treatment due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on NHS hospital waiting lists.
The 41-year-old said her condition was getting worse day by day with lumbar in her back tilting at a 60 degree angle – which is also affecting her ribs and resulting in excruciating pain.
She was diagnosed in March 2018 for spine fusion surgery, but treatment was delayed. This has since been followed by the lockdown period which has seen many patients caught in backlogs.
The illness has left her unable to fully run her business – which has also been hit by wedding cancellations caused by Covid-19 social distancing measures.
Now she has set up an online fundraising campaign to help cover private treatment costs in Belfast after this month receiving a letter from Shropshire’s Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, in Gobowen, explaining that there will be further NHS delays for elective surgeries. "I was put on their surgery waiting list and then Covid-19 hit,” she said.
“Emotionally and physically I can’t take much more. I can do very little with my family. Walking is agony, standing is agony, even lying down hurts. I just want my life back.
“In desperation I’ve looked into private surgery, but in England it would be more than £50,000. However, I have been offered the chance to go to Northern Ireland where it would be around £11,000. It is still a massive amount of money for me, but this would literally change my life.
“I could be a wife and mum again and live pain-free,” Mrs Alexander, of Brunell Road, Admaston, said.
She explained that she found out about the possibility of private treatment after sharing her story with other scoliosis patients on social media.
Now she and husband Simon, 45, a joiner, children Mylo, 16, Ozzy, 14, and Sunny, 12, are appealing for generous donors to help. “I don’t know why surgery costs so much more here,” she added. “Somebody put me in touch with Kingsbridge Private Hospital and they gave me a price of £11,000.
“If I could raise the money it would just mean everything to me. I would get my life back.
"I’m in pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I can’t be a proper mum and wife. I’ve lost more than a stone in weight over the past few months because of the stress.
“The NHS is amazing when it works – sadly, in my case it hasn’t."
Mark Brandreth, chief executive at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has clearly had a significant impact on our ability to perform routine surgery over the past few months and we understand this will be frustrating for our patients.
“We stopped all non-urgent activity earlier in the year in line with national guidelines, but also took on the orthopaedic trauma service for Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin. We are now restoring services as quickly as possible and are prioritising patients based on clinical need.
"We want to thank all of our patients for their support and understanding since the start of this challenging period.”