Urgent appeal launched to fund life-saving surgery for Northumberland woman

An urgent appeal has been launched to help a Northumberland woman get the life-saving surgery she needs.

Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 7:51 pm
An appeal has been launched to raise funds for life-saving surgery for Embleton woman Liv Woodburn.
An appeal has been launched to raise funds for life-saving surgery for Embleton woman Liv Woodburn.

Liv Woodburn, from Embleton, is in desperate need of spinal fusion surgery which is only available in the USA and Spain.

The 35-year-old was diagnosed with the rare genetic condition Ehlers Danlos Syndrome in 2014 and craniocervical instability in 2016.

Her vertebrae are moving out of place causing life-threatening spinal cord compression, leaving her bed-bound and in a spinal neck brace, unable to move unaided.

Liv Woodburn

While she had previously managed short walks around the village in her wheelchair with her dog, Floss, her condition has rapidly deteriorated in recent months and, without surgery, she may die.

Now, her family are trying to raise the £100,000 needed to fund the surgery that could save her life.

Her husband, Gary, explains: “She’s in a precarious situation right now and is extremely ill but we’re trying everything we can to reach that target.

“There has been an amazing response already and we’ve got £28,000 in online pledges, plus we’ve had a donation of £10,000, but there’s a long way to go and we haven’t got much time.”

Gary Woodburn is shaving his hair to raise funds towards life-saving surgery for his wife, Liv.

Liv has been offered an emergency date for surgery at the Spine & Neurotech Hospital Teknon in Barcelona on October 10, and an air ambulance transfer has been provisionally booked for October 4.

Earlier this month her health suddenly and rapidly declined and she is now being looked after at Wansbeck General Hospital.

“She’s in a stable condition but is obviously very poorly,” said Gary. “We’ve just got to keep her stable and as comfortable as possible until then.

“Failure to reach the £100,000 target will result in losing Liv’s slot for surgery, losing a significant deposit and then potentially waiting another three months for a new surgery date to become available. A three-month wait for this life-saving surgery may be too long for Liv.”

Gary is doing his own fund-raising too, with a sponsored head shave in Alnwick Market Place on Saturday at noon, courtesy of City Barbers. He has already received pledges totalling £1,000 but hopes to double this in the coming days.

He said: “I’ve been growing my hair for eight years but if it helps Liv get the surgery she badly needs then I’m happy to lose it.”

Liv, originally from Staffordshire, moved to the North East in 2009 to attend Newcastle University as a student nurse. However, shortly after starting her university course she became too ill to continue. She also used to work as carer in the community.

“She has been poorly for quite a long time but two or three years ago the compression on her spine and neck started showing neurological symptoms,” explained Gary.

“We knew it was a serious problem that was going to get worse but the option of surgery was scary, came with a lot of risks and seemed brutal. I suppose we stuck our heads in the sand a little bit.

“There was a slow degeneration but then two months ago she became very ill, very quickly. It came as quite a shock. Even six months ago we were talking about a slow fund-raising effort but now, all of a sudden, it’s become critical.

“Obviously there are some horrible neurological symptoms which she’s having to deal with but she is well enough to be following this fund-raising efforts on social media. We just need her to hang in there.”