Struck by a pulsing headache and beginning to lose her vision, Ally Oakes knew something was terribly wrong.
She initially believed it was the return of a terrifying migraine she had experienced the previous year, but her condition soon deteriorated.
“There was an ambulance on the way to work for me because I’d gone rapidly downhill,” said the 29-year-old from Thorney Close, Sunderland.
Ally was transported to Sunderland Royal Hospital after becoming ill in January last year but doctors were left puzzled at the cause of her collapse.
“I was weak on my right side and I couldn’t speak,” she said. “No stroke showed on the CT scan but they didn’t know what to do with me.
“I tried to walk and it was only at that point when I realised my legs weren’t working either. I remember looking at my mum and realising this wasn’t good.”
Ally was later diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) – a medical condition where there is a problem with the functioning of the nerve system, the brain and the body.
The diagnosis helped Ally understand the potential cause of a partial loss of vision in April 2019.
The 29-year-old was out with a walk with her girlfriend Chel Cartledge, 36, when she said her vision suddenly became like looking through a black kaleidoscope.
She said: “I recognised the pain that I had in my head as a migraine. I felt strange and felt like everything around me was moving.
“I got home and sat down and I could only see half of the wall in front of me.”
Ally said she went to her GP after the incident in April but was told she must be suffering migraines and was prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs.
However, she continued to suffer excruciating pains that the drugs couldn’t stop.
Ally added: “The pain had progressed from the tip of my skull all the way down the back of my head and neck. I felt like I had been smacked.”
After her collapse in January last year she spent four weeks in hospital where she began physio and speech and language therapy in an attempt to improve her health.
She was unable to speak for around six months but has noted signs of improvement since.
Ally said: “My speech is great today but it’s not always. There’s at least twice a month that I don’t have it.”
Ally was discharged from hospital, but it was in April that she suffered a seizure while at home and couldn’t move her legs.
“Both my legs just went out from under me,” she said. “I was looking at my legs and neither of them were moving. I was concerned and frightened but I thought it was just a setback.
“Now I have seizures daily and my legs are not recovering.”
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Ally, who works at an Amazon fulfilment centre, hasn’t returned since January last year and has been learning how to walk again.
She accepts that she could spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair and uses heat pads to treat the pain when sitting down and sleeping.
“Walking is still a huge strain on my body and I cannot leave my house without help,” she added.
A GoFundMe fundraiser was set up to raise £1,500 for a new wheelchair for Ally, and raised over £5,000 in just five days.
Speaking of the kindness of people in the local community, she said: ” I have cried so hard that I don’t think I have any tears left. That is an amount of money that changes my life.
“I’ve ordered my chair and there’s now an ability to be able to get the electric adaption.
“If I can take anything out of this is to raise awareness to FND and FND charities. If I could now try and help other people’s lives that would be amazing.”