“THIS is existing, not living” – how Kathy Barron describes her near 30-year battle with a debilitating back condition that has left her paralysed from the waist down and in constant pain.
Bed-bound at only 41 years of age, the Tweedbank resident knows she will never be free of her problems, but is pleading for greater help from NHS Borders. She is asking for physiotherapy care and facilities in her own home to at least relieve a percentage of her daily agony, allowing husband and carer Paul to regain some of his life.
But the mother of four says the health board has so far not been able to provide the support she requires.
Mrs Barron told TheSouthern: “I just want to my quality of life to improve. I am not getting the help that I need.”
The back complaints started for Mrs Barron, originally from the north-east of England, when she was just 13, but doctors said it was growing pains.
However, on giving birth to her first child, Andrew, in 1988, a curve in her spine was discovered when hospital staff were unable to place an epidural. She was diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease – a curving of the spine – and was told at the age of 22 she had the back of a 90-year-old woman who had worked hard all her life.
After years of painkillers and X-ray scans, Mrs Barron moved to Galashiels four years ago and was finally told she would get an operation. The surgery at Glasgow’s Western General Hospital was ordered after it was discovered that her spinal cord had become trapped between her vertebrae, with 15 years of calcification – hardening of soft tissue – built up around the bone.
However, following the operation, she was forced to miss months of rehabilitation as she rushed to visit her mother Nora in Newcastle, who was suffering from and later died of cancer in August 2009.
The former legal secretary has been left in excruciating agony ever since, unable to travel for appointments at Borders General Hospital or a pain clinic in Edinburgh as a result.
She told us: “I have had no physio – my legs are wasting away.
“We cannot go to the BGH, I am in too much pain to leave the bedroom. I cannot even get into my new livingroom.
“I take morphine every two hours, but it doesn’t help. It takes the edge off, but that is it.
“I can’t sit up – I need a hoist, but have never had one. If we had one, it would be easier for me, but, more importantly, easier for Paul, as he has a bad back now from supporting me.
“He used to love martial arts and running, but he cannot do either because of the problems I have.”
Mr Barron, 45, added: “We have had appointments at the pain clinic in Edinburgh, but the last four or five have been cancelled, apart from one due to snow, because Kathy was in too much pain.
“We were promised a hoist, but that has not happened because of the cost.
“I am an ex-soldier and used to fighting through things, but I am getting rather annoyed with how my wife is being treated.”
An NHS Borders spokeswoman said: “NHS Borders is not able to comment on individual cases.
“We can, however, state that we have not received a complaint about this issue. Should a complaint be made, we would investigate the situation in full.”