22 Dec 2015

Can you help #careforLaura crowdfund fund life-saving surgery for Laura's Ehlers Danlos syndrome?

As you may know, since 2013 have been disabled by the rare disease (or rarely diagnosed disease), Ehlers Danlos syndrome. I've been at rock bottom and have, with the support of my husband, managed to drag myself to a somewhat precarious place where I can work a few hours a day.

Days out or meetings are always a knock back but I build the down-time in. I've know that I'm lucky to have got to my mid-forties before this genetic condition hit me with its full force.

Recently, I was put in touch with another woman who lives close to me with the same condition. Laura Sylvester and I met for a coffee in Farnham, where she told me her story. 
Laura is just 23 years old, beautiful, smart and determined. A lover of sports, Laura was studying for a Masters degree at Imperial College, London, when EDS took hold. She became so unwell she had to pause her studies and return home to be cared for by her parents.

Laura's condition has continued to deteriorate and her vertebrae are now so unstable, it's put her life at risk. She needs vital neurosurgery that is only possible from a particular surgeon. He happens to be in the US and so this is going to cost a lot of money. A lot of money that Laura and her family don't have. 

However, I mentioned that she is smart and determined, and so Laura has launched a crowdfunding campaign #careforLaura, to ask for people to help her reach her funding goal so she can have the surgery early next year. This will mean she will be able to resume her studies and, although she will still have EDS, she will have a shot of achieving her goal of becoming a geologist.

Here, Laura tells her own story:

Can you help #careforlaura?On 7th August 2014, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) with PoTS (Postural Tachycardia Syndrome). EDS causes the connective tissue throughout my body to be extremely stretchy and easily breakable - there is no cure for it. Over time, my muscles in my neck have become very unstable, which has further led to dislocation/subluxation of my vertebrae, disruption of my spinal cord ligaments, and compression on my cerebellar tonsils and brain stem.

Suddenly my life was flipped upside down and this degenerative muscular condition caused me to deteriorate quickly, forcing me to postpone my Master’s degree at Imperial College, return home, and be cared for by my parents.

Once an extremely sporty, sociable, positive and driven young woman, I have become tremendously vulnerable. I am in extreme pain, I wear a neck brace all day, and I am at constant risk of further damaging my brain stem, that would consequently cause me to stop breathing.

I am in desperate need of specialised EDS neurosurgery which will be done on 13th January 2016 in Washington D.C., USA. There are few experts in the world who can do this. The total of the medical expenses, travel and recovery is very high. I hope and NEED to raise at least £75,000 ($110,000) to fund this.

The surgery will create stability in my neck and stop the compression on the brain stem and cerebellar tonsils, essentially saving my life. This will enable me to carry on living my life as a normal 23-year-old, hopefully mostly pain-free and without the worry of causing further damage, which could otherwise prove fatal. 

Even though the surgery will offer me the stability that I need, unfortunately it comes at a cost of losing complete movement of my head and neck. Nevertheless, I am determined to adapt to this and begin fulfilling my dreams once again and resuming my Master's degree.

Any amount of donations and support for this specialist neurosurgery will be so tremendously appreciated, not only by myself, but also my family and friends. Please do consider contributing to the first major stepping stone that I need to live my life without fear.

22nd December 2015:

Laura is now within £5000 of her target - an INCREDIBLE achievement in just two weeks. Can you help push her over the finish line?

Read their story here

For more information about EDS, visit EDS UK
For new stories about EDS, check out my Tumblr news site A Rare Diagnosis
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2 Dec 2015

How to rejuvenate your skin in two easy steps

You may have seen my previous post about visiting the S-Thetics medical aesthetic clinic in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire when I sampled the delights of Allergan Juvéderm fillers. If not, take a look at the video I made demystifying and informing you about the procedure, which really made a difference not only to my 48 year old face but also to my confidence.

endymed image slate

*Scroll to the end to watch the short video

Surgeon, Miss Sherina Balaratnam, who owns the clinic, invited me to return to try out her Signature facial treatment, which consists of a session with a revolutionary non-invasive EndyMed™3DEEP® radiofrequency treatment.  That's followed by a luxurious Fire and Ice facial tratment that is described thus:

"Pioneered in Beverly Hills and coveted by A listers globally, this renowned intensive treatment is clinically formulated with the purest pharmaceutical grade ingredients and designed to offer the ultimate results driven facial treatment.

The Fire & Ice treatment gives the skin a deep cleanse, leaving it with a beautiful glow. Your skin will feel plumper, smoother and more hydrated, leaving you ready to face the day! This treatment is ideal as a one-off skin rejuvenation treat, but for more intensive and long-lasting results, we recommend using once per week over a six week period."

How does the EndyMed™3DEEP® work?

The EndyMed™3DEEP® is a non-invasive radiofrequency treatment, designed to stimulate collagen, combat loss of elasticity, wrinkles and impaired texture that, let's face it, are for most of us, part of life's little expectations when we are lucky enough to have made it thus far. But it doesn't have to be that way.

"Using radio frequency (RF) energy, EndyMed™3DEEP® safely heats the collagen in the skin making it contract, providing an immediate change in skin appearance.  The treatment also triggers a second process of new collagen production, stimulating your body’s natural collagen renewal process leading to skin tightening and a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles."

You see, this is why those celebrities look so amazing for their age. It's not just good genes, it's great maintenance and luckily, it's not so expensive that it's completely out of reach if you are not famous.

Back at the S-Thetics clinic in Beaconsfield, Bucks, Sherina shows me the Endymed machine, which does indeed look very medical. Reassuringly so. The other factor that takes away any concern is the fact that Sherina is a highly experienced medical doctor and surgeon (hence the 'Miss' and not Dr).

Why did I go for it?

I had noticed in recent months, the skin of my lower jaw feeling a little thinner, less taut and more fragile. Almost certainly no one else would have noticed it, but it was just that the 'quality' of it I could feel had changed. So when Sherina offered me the chance to try out the treatment, I didn't hesitate, especially knowing I was in such good hands.

In any case, I'm not interested in pleasing anyone else - my husband loves me as I am - but I'm just not ready to see in the mirror a face that doesn't reflect how I feel inside. Living with a chronic pain condition can make you feel battered and old before your time, so for me, looking the best that I can helps keep my spirits up.

Back at S-Thetics

In the quiet sanctuary of the S-Thetics clinic, I lay on the treatment bed while Sherina began the EndyMed Facial Tightening treatment. The hand-held part of the EndyMed device reminded me a bit of an ultrasound and as Sherina applies it to the area being treated, my lower face, I could feel the heat penetrating through some contact gel into my skin. It wasn't unpleasant and it didn't hurt. The temperature is monitored and when I indicated, as instructed, that it was approaching the limit of comfort, Sherina knew that it had done its job.

The treatment was very quick, painless and you could have gone straight back to work if that's what you wanted to do. Of course I was just testing out one session, but a course of six is recommended for long lasting effects.

On to the Fire and Ice

The second part of the 'Signature treatment' is the Fire and Ice facial treatment. Most of us have had facials, but this one is a multi-step procedure that peels and resurfaces the skin with 18% unbuffered glycolic acid, citric acid, lactic acid, malic acid, vitamin B3, retinol and potent antioxidants, including green tea extracts. That's the 'Fire' part but it didn't hurt in any way. I have very sensitive, allergy-prone skin and I was a bit nervous that I might have a reaction, but everything is based on natural, botanical ingredients and I was perfectly fine.

The Fire part is an intensive clinical treatment designed to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and provide deep cleansing of blocked pores. 

The second 'Ice' stage is another masque application that is cool, soothing and intensively hydrating. It contains hyaluronic acid, often described as 'the fountain of youth',  Japanese green tea extracts, aloe vera gel, liquorice extracts, rosemary extracts and grape seed extracts. This second masque cools the initial resurfacing and is left on for about 5 minutes. 

After a final cleanse, a moisturising serum and a strong sunscreen are applied to the face because the treatment will leave your face susceptible to the sun for a short while afterwards. 

The Verdict

I'm often sceptical of facial treatments because I rarely feel any different afterwards apart from a bit lighter in the wallet area. But the S-Thetics Signature treatment honestly made a big difference to my middle-aged skin.
It immediately felt plumper and firmer and to me, it looked much brighter and less tired. 
But it was the EndyMed radiofrequency treatment that has made the lasting difference. The fragility I was feeling in my neck and lower jaw has disappeared along with any slight loss of elasticity I had noticed. Now it's back to what it was at least a decade ago. 
My neck especially has shown the benefits. The treatment has tightened all the collagen in my skin so that it's all back where it used to be and I am delighted! 

Ideally, I would have the full course of six treatments but even with just one, the effects have already lasted several months. I'm rather late with this review but in this case, it means I have had a chance to see how the treatment has lasted - and it really has nipped that first sign of sagging skin in the bud and I would recommend it to anyone my age or even younger (depending on how your skin is faring). 

It works just as well for older men and women too - possibly it would have even better results - and its benefits are not restricted to the face. It can treat sagging body areas as well including the abdomen, arms, breasts and bottom. It really is an amazing treatment and if I sound as if I'm raving, it's because it really is worthwhile having, to give you a confidence boost. 

It's true that for many mums, this kind of thing is a luxury we can't often afford, but when I work out how much I've saved by giving up alcohol for example, that would easily cover a treatment every so often. 

And of course, it's nearly Christmas, so if you're looking for a no-down-time treatment to give you that skip in your step for the festive season, look no further than S-Thetics Signature EndyMed™3DEEP® and a Fire and Ice facial.

Thank you once again to Miss Sherina Balaratnam of S-Thetics in Beaconsfield for her generosity (and her patience!) I cannot recommend her enough.

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