Gravesend woman forced to sleep upright due to back condition

A Gravesend woman was forced to sleep upright in a wooden chair for weeks after she was struck with an agonising spinal condition.

Sharon Churchill, 61, was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in June 2021, a condition where the the spinal cord gradually becomes crushed by slipped discs in the back.

While she was initially able to cope with backaches and tingling sensations, the mother-of-two was left virtually paralysed after over-exerting herself as she put away Christmas decorations the day after Boxing Day.

“I lifted something across the room, nothing heavy,” Sharon said.

This Is Local London: Sharon before her condition and at hospital (Sharon Churchill)Sharon before her condition and at hospital (Sharon Churchill)

“Suddenly, I just went down and that was it. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t twist, I couldn’t do anything.

“Obviously the discs had just dropped and crushed my spinal cord.

“I can’t describe the pain that I went through. Honestly, I feel traumatised by it.”

Sharon’s husband, Phillip, called the ambulance service, which sent a crew who transferred her to Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.

She was given pain relief for four days before being discharged, as the hospital does not treat spinal conditions.

Back home, Sharon continued to suffer debilitating pain.

“I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore,” Sharon said.

“I was screaming and crying. It’s not like me, I have a very high pain threshold.

“This was like pain where you can only survive if you’re heavily sedated, and that’s not a life.”

Sharon’s back was so fragile that she could only sleep sitting upright in a hard wooden chair at the dinner table. 

“I would pile pillows on the table, bringing it up to a height because I could lean forward, and just gently rest and lean on that.

“I had such a bad sleep deprivation obviously because of the pain and because I couldn’t properly rest anywhere, but that was the only place I could sleep.

“That’s all I could do.”

The NHS told Sharon she would have to wait eight to nine months for the surgery she needed.

Waiting lists have grown to unforeseen lengths due to continued pressure on hospital beds throughout the pandemic.

Sharon was told the only situation in which surgery would be carried out immediately would be if she lost bowel and bladder control.

Shocked by the extreme scenario, Phillip researched the possibility of private treatment, coming across The Holly Private Hospital in Essex, which offered the surgery for around £7,500.

Phillip borrowed from his brother to pay for the operation, which went ahead smoothly on January 18, just a week after he first made contact.

It will take Sharon around six weeks before she can move around properly, and a year to fully recover.

She said: “It’s very, very sore, but oh my goodness, it’s like I’ve been given my life back.

“I’ve been so thankful, so grateful for everything and anything.

“I’ll never take anything for granted again.”

Sharon’s friend, Helen Peevor, has launched a gofundme to help the couple cover the cost of the operation.

You can view it here.  

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