March 13, 2018 02:03:18by

Woman, 23, left paralysed can now brush her hair

Woman, 23, left paralysed can now brush her hair

A 23-year-old woman left paralysed by a rare condition can now brush her hair, feed herself and even do a push-up.

Helen Fincham, from Pencoed, near Cardiff, reportedly couldn't wipe away her own tears when she lost her ability to move in August 2016.

Doctors were baffled when her sore neck, that she thought was caused by sleeping at an awkward angle, eventually led to paralysis. 

Miss Fincham's sudden loss of movement was confirmed as being transverse myelitis - a rare neurological disorder that damages the spinal cord.

But after months of intensive physiotherapy at hospital, Miss Fincham has regained a degree of independence. 

Speaking about her ordeal for the first time, she said: 'Everything was taken from me at 21. I would even cry at night yet couldn’t wipe my own tears.

'But look at me now. I can move my arms and hands and have only a little independence back but it’s been more than I could of asked for and I’m so grateful.' 

What is this disorder? 

Miss Fincham was eventually diagnosed with transverse myelitis, which causes inflammation to both sides of one section of the spinal cord.

The exact cause is unknown, although it can be linked to viral or bacterial infections. It strikes around 300 people each year in the UK, according to figures.

Miss Fincham said the days after the illness struck were marred by confusion and fear. 

She said: 'It was awful at the beginning in A&E as everyone was clueless [as to] how my complete paralysis came on out of nowhere in less than an hour or so.

'I had numerous tests for two months figuring out the paralysis. But nothing could tell why. 

'So I had nothing to use for acceptance but to live with it, live with being spoon fed and everything.'

Miss Fincham spent months in rehabilitation at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff.

Paralysis is defined by the NHS as being 'the loss of the ability to move some or all of the body'. It can start suddenly or gradually and can temporarily disappear.

She feared she would never recover any movement, but then 'flinches' in her hands were followed months later by steady movement in her arms.

Private treatment aiding recovery 

Now private treatment is helping her to build on this and go further in her recovery than she ever thought possible.

She travels to Neurokinex in Bristol once a week for physio sessions, where she uses exercise equipment and even does aided push ups,

Miss Fincham also visits Neuro Physio Wales in Bridgend, which provides MOTOmed functional electronic stimulation.

But the treatment comes at a cost and a local plumber, who is backing her, has come up with an innovative way of paying for more treatment. 

Help from a local plumber 

Ashley Matthews, 25, is donating £5 from every boiler serviced and £30 from every boiler changed to Helen. 

Mr Matthews, from Matthews and Son Plumbing and Heating, wants to raise £700 to pay for a five-week course of treatment.

He has chatted to Helen during his part-time role as a doorman in the town and wanted to help out.

Mr Matthews said he was able to raise £45 in just the first few hours after he started fundraising and hopes his customers will continue to show their support.

Miss Fincham said: 'I was so surprised that someone whom I have only spoken to on some occasions would be so considerate and helpful.

'I’ve not reached out for help as I have done in the past already and I’m aware we all have money problems and it’s so kind.

'I left rehab feeling so let down and that there was nothing left to get better, but finding Neurokinex has made me realise there is more to be done and helped me and my depression.

'It’s expensive, but they’re amazing. They are another level, pushing you to your limits.

'I’ve had really bad days way at the beginning trying to learn to live this new way of life but it’s the friends and family who get me through each day with their support and kind words.'

'Things have changed so much' 

After completing her first push ups this month, she added: 'So lucky regaining movement. Things have changed so much for me. 

'I still struggle with tasks as I have no triceps in my one arm and the other [is] ridiculously weaker.

'But I am happier now that I don’t have to be spoon fed, or someone having to brush my hair and teeth and all the other things we do daily with our arms and hands that I took for granted before.'