Rachel’s Fight For Life

Our blog normally highlights the occupational health services that we offer and the advice that we provide to our clients and their staff.

However, today we are focusing on a story that we feel needs to be told about the incredible strength and bravery of a very special woman.

Rachel’s story

Rachel Pighills is employed by Gardner Aerospace, an organisation that has been a client of ours for over 6 years.

Rachel is a 33-year-old woman with a husband and a 12-year-old daughter. She also suffers from an incredibly rare condition.

Up until 2 years ago, Rachel was perfectly fit and healthy. Unfortunately, that changed when she was diagnosed with Addison’s disease.

Addison's disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency or hypoadrenalism, is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands.

It means that the body does not produce enough cortisol or aldosterone.

While this was being treated with medication, last Summer, Rachel also began to experience neurological problems.

A shocking discovery

As her symptoms progressed, Rachel saw a neurologist who did MRI scans of her brain. 

The results shocked everyone.

The scans showed that Rachel’s brain was sinking into her spinal canal, causing severe brainstem compression.

The problem was so severe that a simple turn to the left caused her cervical spine junction to partially dislocate. A full dislocation would lead to instant death.

Rachel was immediately referred to a neurosurgeon. 

The diagnosis

Rachel was diagnosed with Atlantoaxial instability, Atlas assimilation, basilar invagination (infolding of the skull), Platybasia, Hydrocephalus, Scoliosis and Cervical Medullary syndrome. 

This means her neck has become too unstable to support the weight of her head.

In fact, Rachel is at risk of internal decapitation and must wear a neck brace to protect her. 

Due to the severity of the problem, there are only three specialist surgeons in the world who can treat her. 

Thankfully, one of them, Dr Gilete in Barcelona, has agreed to do just that.

The operations

Rachel now requires two operations, the first will be to remove her odontoid bone, which is compressing her brainstem. 

She will then have to be fitted into a halo device as the removal of the odontoid will cause further instability. 

After a week, she will then have a second operation to fuse her skull and neck together. 

She will need to stay in the hospital in Barcelona for 6 weeks to receive round-the-clock care while she recovers.

The cost and how we can help

As you can imagine, the cost of Rachel’s surgery and recovery is enormous.

Because the NHS is unable to fund the surgery, she and her family have already exhausted their finances.

They now need to cover the costs for the upright MRI, consultations with Dr Gilete and also the neurosurgeon in the UK. 

Rachel desperately needs any help she can get to raise the money to save her life. 

Here at Fusion, we’re helping in every way we can.

Rachel is an incredibly kind, loving and generous wife, mother and friend who is simply exhausted from the impact of this devastating diagnosis.

We want to be able to help send Rachel to Barcelona, which is why we’re asking people to visit her Easy Fundraising page and give what they can.


We'll be posting regular updates on our Facebook page and welcome any ideas that people might have for fundraising events. 

Hopefully, together, we can help Rachel’s fight for life.

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Categories: Fusion NewsOccupational Health

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