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Woman Faces Being Internally Decapitated By Simply Turning Her Head To The Left Thanks To Ultra-Rare Condition

(PA Real Life/collect)

A terrifying condition so rare that only three specialists in the world can help her means a successful working mom is living on a tightrope – where one false move could mean she is “internally decapitated," causing instant death.


Diagnosed with atlantoaxial instability, resulting in excessive movement between the first and second vertebrae of the neck, which holds the skull in place, Rachel Pighills' spine partially dislocates each time she turns her head to the left, increasing her risk of paralysis.

The 33-year-old of Worcester, Worcestershire, who has a 12-year-old daughter, is forced to wear a neck brace to guard against the deadly threat of a total dislocation, which would decapitate her internally and kill her.

Rachel after being struck down by illness (PA Real Life/collect)

Now she and her quality inspector husband of a year and a half, Guy, 38, are trying to raise £135,000 (~$163,000) via GoFundMe to engage the services of a surgeon in Barcelona, Spain – one of only three in the world able to operate to fuse her neck and skull.

Also diagnosed with cervical medullary syndrome, caused by brain stem compression and leading to excruciating headaches, dizziness and fatigue, Rachel, said: “I live in constant fear of paralysis and death. It's hard to describe that feeling.

“I feel like I can't do anything. I go to work for a few hours a day, come home and lie horizontally on the couch. I do not do anything else."

Rachel and Guy's wedding (PA Real Life/Dawn Kent Photography)

She continued: “I'm a determined person and I have to try and do what I can. I know I can't give up.

“In May 2019 I spoke to a specialist based in Barcelona who said my case is severe and I'm at risk of internal decapitation. Turning to the left causes my cervical spine junction to partially dislocate and I could die instantly if it fully dislocates."

Told in May she has atlantoaxial instability, doctors believe it is caused by a connective tissue disorder, as her collagen quota – the body's most abundant protein and major component of connective tissues – is not as high as it should be.

Rachel's MRI scan (PA Real Life/collect)

“My neck has become too unstable to support the weight of my head, meaning I have to take extreme care," Rachel explained. “I can only wear my neck brace for four hours a day, because of the risk of muscles wasting away, which will be even more dangerous.

“I try and avoid turning from side-to-side. I can't move to the left side.

“But the decapitation risk will go after the surgery, even if there is still some pain. I'm desperate to get to Barcelona and have it done. It might not get rid of all my symptoms, but it will save my life."

Rachel before illness (PA Real Life/collect)

Bizarrely, Rachel was perfectly fit and healthy – running around after her daughter and even enjoying horseback riding – until August 2017, when she started taking a new medication for an overactive immune system.

Experiencing sudden vomiting, she was hospitalized three times between September and October that year, after losing 28 lbs in just six weeks.

She recalled: “I couldn't move off the couch."

“Even though I had stopped taking the medication pretty much straight away, the symptoms continued," she explained.

“I was back and forth to the hospital and I thought I could have an eating disorder, because I couldn't get to the bottom of it.

“My wedding to Guy was coming up in February 2018 and I was thinking maybe I was subconsciously trying to lose weight for that."

Rachel after being struck down by illness (PA Real Life/collect)

In October 2017, after an MRI scan ruled out a pituitary tumor, Rachel was diagnosed with Addison's disease, a rare disorder of the adrenal glands where they stop producing enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone.

Treated with steroids, if cortisol levels fall significantly, it can cause a fatal adrenal crisis.

Rachel said: “I was taking a lot of steroids, but still losing weight. My wedding dress had to be taken in from a size 12 to a size six."

Rachel and Guy before illness (PA Real Life/collect)

Rachel continued: “I was having tremors in my hands, caused by adrenalin, I was exhausted all the time and would just fall asleep at any moment. It got to the point where I could not drive my daughter to school in case I fell asleep at the wheel.

“In August 2018 we moved closer to my work and my daughter's school, so I did not have to drive as far."

As she was not offered an alternative diagnosis, despite the severity of her symptoms even with medication, Rachel accepted she must have Addison's disease.

Rachel before illness (PA Real Life/collect)

But, after she struck her head on the back of a ceiling fan while moving into her new home in August 2018, the symptoms started to get worse.

She recalled: “A week after that I went into adrenal crisis due to water retention and was admitted to hospital. It happened again a week later and I was back to hospital.

“After I returned home I was in constant pain. My head felt really heavy on my shoulders and I would get dizzy and lightheaded."

Rachel and Guy's wedding (PA Real Life/Dawn Kent Photography)

“I started researching myself and came up with postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) which is an abnormal increase in heart rate that occurs after sitting up or standing, causing dizziness amongst other things," she explained.

Seeing a private endocrinologist – a specialist treating problems with hormones – in the autumn of 2018, she had an MRI scan, which came back clear.

Further visits to the GP followed and in March 2019, she was referred to a cardiologist, where an electrocardiogram test to check the heart's rhythm showed she was tachycardic – meaning her heart was beating faster than normal while at rest – and then a tilt table test led to an official diagnosis of PoTS.

Rachel said: “PoTs is a secondary condition and is not caused by Addison's, so I knew it must have been caused by something else."

And in May 2019, a neurologist also diagnosed her with Chiari malformation, a non-life threatening condition, where the lower part of the brain pushes down into the spinal canal, according to the NHS.

“I posted my MRI scan in a Chiari malformation Facebook group and people were commenting, saying Chiari was the least of my problems," Rachel recalled."

Rachel horseback riding before illness (PA Real Life/collect)

She said: “The dizziness was getting worse. It felt my head was too heavy for my neck. At work I would have to prop up my head with my hands. It felt like an enormous weight. I couldn't hold it myself.

“I was getting really bad headaches. The worst was at the bottom of my head. It felt like something was pushing and going to pierce through my head. Sitting up would be agony.

“It would last for hours. It was totally debilitating. I could not physically stand up. My legs would just give way and in the end we had to hire a mobility scooter for me."

Rachel after being struck down by illness (PA Real Life/collect)

In June 2019 Rachel saw another neurologist, who diagnosed her with platybasia, a flattening of the skull base, and basilar invagination, an infolding of the base of the skull, which occurs when one of the vertebra migrates upwards.

Then paying £1,300 ($1,570) for a private upright MRI scan, Rachel asked for the images be sent to Dr. Gilete, a top neurosurgeon she had found via a Facebook group in Barcelona, Spain – one of only three experts worldwide dealing with minimal invasive spinal surgery techniques.

Having assessed the MRI and carried out a detailed questionnaire, he added to her diagnosis atlantoaxial instability – where the vertebrae holding her skull in place become unstable and dislocated, hydrocephalus, which is an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain, scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and cervical medullary syndrome, which is caused by brain stem compression.

Rachel and Guy after illness (PA Real Life/collect)

Luckily, a private health policy she has through work has covered a lot of her costs, but Rachel has still spent almost £2,000 ($2,415) of her own money on consultations.

She is now looking to raise £135,000 via GoFundMe to cover an operation in Barcelona, her accommodation for an estimated six week stay while she recovers and transport.

“I will have to have two operations. The first will remove the odontoid bone which is compressing my brain stem and the second a week later will fuse my skull and neck together," Rachel explained.

“I will have a three week stay in hospital and then three weeks in an apartment with nurses," she added.

“I just want to have it done as soon as possible.

“No one really knows what's caused it. I still wonder if it's connected to my reaction to the new medication I took for an overactive immune system."

Rachel and Guy before illness (PA Real Life/collect)

She added: “I feel I have missed out on so much. I can't go to my daughter's assemblies and parents' evenings. I tried to go and was walking to a classroom when my legs gave way and I fell into the printer. If I'd banged my head it does not bear thinking about what might have happened.

“I hardly sleep. I can't go out really. A trip to the supermarket is a day out for us."

Rachel has praised her husband for his unerring support during her health crisis.

Rachel's MRI scan (PA Real Life/collect)

“I do not know what I would do without Guy. I have had a lot of time off and it's been a struggle, but he has been fantastic and tried to keep a bit of normality," she said.

Meanwhile, Guy lives in constant fear that the wife he adores could be taken from him.

He said: “It's been very difficult. I'm obviously terrified that I might come home one day and Rachel will be lying on the floor. There's a risk my wife might die."

Rachel and Guy before illness (PA Real Life/collect)

Guy added: “I'm very protective as I'm so scared of what might happen. I'm scared of her lifting things or trying to push a vacuum around.

“I feel like I'm doing the best I can do in the situation. It's emotionally draining but you do what you have got to do."

To donate to Rachel's GoFundMe, click here.

We're all self-conscious about something, and it doesn't help when our faults get thrown in our faces. You don't want doctors hinting that something is "weird down there," nor do you want someone to tell you you're balding. WE KNOW.

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When you know your kids backwards and forwards, this is the best tool in your arsenal.

Getting our kids to listen to us is not always the easiest of tasks. They're willful and stubborn, but we've got a mighty weapon they are rarely prepared for: reverse psychology. Getting them to convince themselves to want to do something against their own initial intentions takes some work and a whole lot of creativity, but a little sneaky manipulation goes a long way. Here are some clever parents' tricks that are definitely worth taking notes on.

Redditor u/LeanderD Asks:

Parents of reddit, what's your best example of reversed psychology on your kids that actually worked?

He Floated His Idea Through A Back Channel

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Wanted to name my boat. Anything I would think of was dismissed as stupid by my 13 year old son. After deciding on a name, I confided to a male friend my son liked. Made my friend suggest the name as though it was his idea. My son thought the name was perfect. Done.

calypsodweller

We Always Want What We Can't Have

One of my best friends through childhood used to be punished with no salad if she misbehaved. She cherishes salad now and would always try to eat as much as possible during school lunch. Coincidentally, her now husband used to be punished with no books, it had the same effect. I think it's hilarious that they'd be hitting the salad bar and library like some black market their narc parents couldn't reach hahaha.

cookiearthquake

A Deceit That's A Cut Above The Rest

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Don't know if this counts, but, at my high school (private, boys only) in the 1960's, they made a big deal about how long your hair was, and would occasionally order a boy to go home and "get a haircut".

I thought it was stupid, until years later, a master confided to me at a reunion that the policy was deliberate. The school figured we'd spend so much energy rebelling about hair length, that we would ignore other aspects of teenage rebellion. (Not?) Surprisingly, they were mostly right.

FrankDrakman

Damn! That's smart. Wow.

fangxx456

Oh they don't like long hair?

I'll show them. I'll grow my hair out as lon- what?! No I don't want to go "party"? I gotta try out this horse shampoo.

DankeyKang11

The Forbidden Book

Hi I was a victim,

There was a forbidden book that I was not allow to read on the shelf. My parents said I could only read it if I behave myself.

It was summer holidays and I was playing games all day (after 6 hrs of summer homework). One day I was home alone and had the opportunity to grabbed it. I read like half of it in one go. It was 5000 years of Chinese history.

Safe to say I was bamboozled.

oddstodd

Flowers Of The Queen

My parents always told me my broccoli were the flowers of the queen and that I really shouldn't eat them, or else the queen would get very upset! I, of course, ate the whole broccoli in a few seconds.

Subwoofy

I'm telling the queen and she's gonna be pissed

draculacletus

Sleeping Beauty

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I taught my kids when they were toddlers that no amount of yelling, shaking or hitting can wake a sleeping adult. The only thing that works is a gentle hug and/or a nice kiss on the cheek.

Edit: Probably needed some more details for the reverse psychology aspect to be clear. It went something like this - Step one, tell the kids I'm going to sleep and nothing they do will wake me (head buried face down is the safest position). Step two, after the initial onslaught dies down pretend to awaken on your own. Tell them you got a bit of nap left in you and nothing can wake you, especially not hugs and kisses.

DrMethusael

Holy sh*t...if my daughter woke me up like this I would buy her a pony.

All-Seeing_Elon

I am saving this comment because this will save lives if I ever have kids, stg.

smerter

A Walk In Someone Else's Shoes.

Split custody with my ex. When my son was around 10, he visited two weekends a month. I was waiting tables and didn't have a huge amount to spend, but he was so needy from divorce (and I'm not blaming him, it was ugly), he begged constantly for MORE when he was with me. Whatever more was, it didn't matter... he'd be eating ice cream cone and begging for teriyaki.

I finally realized that he just felt empty, and getting MORE whatever from me wasn't filling him up. His next visit I handed him $100 in cash and told him it was our food/fun budget for 3 days and two nights, and he was in charge of it. I bought him his own wallet to carry. We figured out how many times we were going to eat and what we were going to do, and he paid. He got to keep whatever money he had left...thought he was rich...then realized just how much everything cost. Well. Shoe on other foot then. If we had no money for food, we ate leftovers - and I didn't contribute more to pot. After a few weekends of running short or not getting something he actually wanted because he was foolish with funds, he started to really think about how to spend that money. He budgeted and kept to his budget. And a few times he actually went home with a little cash for his private stash.

Many years later, he thanked me for this. It really changed the way he thought about money and love.

Augumenti

This Is Worth Giving A Shot

Took my 3 year old son to one of those doctor's visits where he was going to get a shot. He was worried about the shot on the whole drive over, almost to the point of tears. We get to the doctor's office and a nurse subtly lets me know that my son is not just scheduled for 1 shot, but 5 of them in the same visit.

I turn to my son with an exaggerated smile and tell him, "Good news! They figured out how to take that one big shot you were going to get and instead break it up into these 5 little tiny shots so it won't hurt nearly as much!"

You could see the relief wash over his face. He stopped squirming and relaxed completely. He took the first shot and even smiled and said "It's true! The small ones don't hurt!"

We actually made it through the third shot before the effect wore off and reality kicked in. Still... I counted it as a victory.

blackbird77

Put This To The Taste

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My mom would tell me she only lets me eat soup after candy and she'd only buy me candy that i didn't like. After a few times, i stopped trying and begged her to let me eat soup first. She gave me a smirk and told me go ahead. This doesn't sound as evil as it was. But trust me i suffered.

turkeypr0

So what was the candy?

Poster_Main

Mint chocolate, raisins, stuff like that. I still hate them to this day. Who the f--- thought while eating chocolate "hmm id like some tooth paste with this."

turkeypr0

This is Truckin' Awesome

Mum had sworn a bit around the house.

When 4, while out at the supermarket, I said F word really loudly.

Very quickly and intently, she asked if I had just said "Truck" and said that was a bad word and not to ever say Truck like that again.

I thought that was the bad word so used that when being naughty.

GodOfTheThunder

The "Silly Mom" Routine

The "Silly Mom" routine.

My kid, and a few other kids I've known, would balk at getting ready to go. I'd grab their clothes and say, "Well, if you won't put on your clothes, I guess I'll put on your clothes. Cute shirt, by the way! Does it go on my foot?"

NO!

"Does it go on my head?"

NO! IT GOES ON ME!

"Oh, that's right, thanks! So, it must go on your legs, right?"

NO!

"I just can't figure this out! Where does this adorable shirt go?"

[kid grabs shirt and puts it on] ON MY TUMMY! SILLY MOM!

"Oh, thank you so much! Now what about these pants? Shirts go on tummies, so...the pants go on the tummy, too, right?"

NO!

[continue until kids have dressed themselves]

I would also do things like hand the kid my keys and say, "Alright, you're driving, I'll sit in the booster seat in back," attempt to feed the kid by putting a spoon up to his ear or his belly button, and attempt to put away his toys in the refrigerator.

insertcaffeine

Some Foot For Thought.

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My mum would always yell at us "if you don't do X, you have to go to bed without socks!"

I never wore socks anyway, and I'm ashamed to admit that this worked.

Splittsky

That would work really well on my son, or make him cry for a really long time... He's 3 and over the last few weeks has decided that he is fully unable to sleep without socks on.

PJQueen

Toddlers man. Completely unpredictable.

SheaRVA

I'm Greens With Envy

My mum had a friend that would put vegetables on her own plate and not the kids.

When the kids asked she would be reluctant to share, "that's grown up food. But I suppose I can let you have a little."

Her kids grew up loving vegetables.

I sat at the dinner table for 3 hours staring at the yucky cauliflower I refused to eat.

laik72

This reminds me of an instance when my child convinced my wife and myself to change our plans for dinner. We were in a grocery store to pick up something quick and easy to eat that we wouldn't have to prepare. Our daughter, wanted none of that, she demanded that she wanted a salad from the salad bar. We started to argue back, but then realized: "Our child demands that we feed her vegetables for dinner instead of a microwaved meal, why are we saying 'No?'"

We had salad for dinner that night.

Galaxy_Ranger_Bob

The Power Of Choice

I don't so much know if you would call it reverse psychology, but I didn't realize it until my dad told me this.

When there were chores that needed doing, he noticed if he asked me to mow the lawn, I would complain and procrastinate. But if he asked would I rather mow the lawn or wash the windows, I'd pick one and just get it done.

Shattered my brain when he told me when I was in my twenties. I use it when I'm coaching or baby sitting all the time and it almost never fails.

AppealToReason16

The Boy Who Cried 'Ouch'

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I've done this one with tens of kids. Any time a kid gets "hurt" (falls down on grass, gets gently hit in the face with a ball, etc.) instead of stopping the activity to pick the kid up and see if they're ok you just scoot them off to the side and resume. Within 10 seconds of not getting all the attention and seeing the fun is resuming they pop right back up and are magically healed.

This of course is only for the "injuries" that aren't actually injuries.

pedanticProgramer

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