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'I'LL LEARN TO WALK ALL OVER AGAIN' Fundraising effort to get Rachel back home.


A WOMAN whose brain is too big for her head is learning to walk for a THIRD time after spending the last two years trapped in her own body.

Rachel Cunningham from Litherland was diagnosed with a rare condition which left her unable to use her arms and legs just weeks after marrying "soulmate" Paul.

Known as chiari malformation, the illness means the 39-year-old's brain tissue is larger than average, and extends into her spinal canal.

Since then, the condition has been further complicated by the fact she also sufferers from syringomyelia - a fluid-filled cyst in her spinal cord - which she compares to being "a human spirit level".

Although sufferers are born with chiari malformation, Rachel's was only discovered when she fell over at work in 2009 and visited her GP who rushed her to hospital.

She said: "I fell over at work, but for a short time I couldn't feel one side of my body. I just blacked out, but it worried me because my nan had just suffered a stroke so I went to the doctor.

||Rachel and enjoying their wedding day weeks before was diagnosed "She examined the back of my eye and said I needed to go straight to hospital. Two days later I was on an operating table in the Walton neurology centre."

The former teaching assistant has undergone 10 different brain and spine surgeries in eight years. In 2010, one operation left her without the use of her arms and legs, after a cyst pushing on her spinal cord meant her nerves "forgot" how to work.

Rachel admits the realisation she'd lost her independence left her feeling depressed and helpless.

She said: "I cried every single day and I just felt like I was never going to be able to walk again, but then eventually I gave myself a bit of a talking to and decided I wasn't going to let it beat me. I did the physio and did all the exercises and I could walk again. It felt amazing."

However, when doctors told Rachel she'd have to undergo the same surgery in 2015, she decided she'd learn to walk all over again.

Since her most recent surgery, she has been forced to leave the home she shares with husband Paul to live in the Oakvale Centre - a specialist rehabilitation centre.

Rachel's big brother Chris, a postman from Litherland, is trying to raise PS16,000 to pay for adaptations so his sister can move back home.

He said: "As her big brother I just felt a bit helpless because I can't make her be able to walk again, but hopefully what I can do is raise awareness and hopefully some funds to adapt the house."

Paul - just she." You can donate to Rachel's fund by visiting id=& utm_ term=K7ENEJ2m2]. For more about chiari malformation visit


||Rachel and enjoying their wedding day - weeks before she was diagnosed

|Rachel on one of only four visits home in the past 18 months, to celebrate her birthday

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 4, 2017
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