AN OXFORD woman who is surviving on protein bars because she has a condition that stops her swallowing most food is trying to raise £80,000 for a ‘life-changing’ operation.

Katie Miller, 48, led an active life that included a passion for running, the outdoors and socialising with friends, until a minor illness changed everything.

She was working at the Oxford Mail’s newsquest office in Osney Mead as a graphic designer in 2003 when she came down with tonsillitis.

Then 32, she never recovered, had to leave her job the following year and is now virtually housebound.

ALSO READ: Pharmacies warn against stockpiling medicine over Covid-19

Despite her hard-to-diagnose symptoms fluctuating in severity over the years, she has faced increasing issues swallowing food, as well as tiredness, and now needs to wear a neck brace to support her head and minimise pain at the base of her skull.

In the past 12 months her condition, now believed to be partly due to ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) a complex chronic illness which causes fatigue and immune problems, has deteriorated further.

ALSO READ: Doctor was kicked out by landlady worried about coronavirus

She currently lives on chopped-up Pulsin bars sprinkled with digestive enzymes and fears what will happen when even that solution fails.

She said: “Eating is an almighty challenge. Even with all these measures I still get symptoms - a sore head, sleepy and discomfort in throat. But if I don’t concentrate hard enough and it does not go down smoothly, I get much more horrid symptoms.”

Oxford Mail:

Katie Miller in the Newsquest office in 2002

After a decade and a half of doctors failing to find an answer to Ms Miller’s health problems, she was finally diagnosed as having both ME and Craniocervical Instability (CCI) last year, with a surgery available in Barcelona to reverse some of the damage.

She said: “I was over the moon when I got the CCI diagnosis. It was a massive relief to finally have a name for what was going on but then of course I realised that in order to get treatment I needed to fund it myself.”

The surgery, which costs £80,000, could allow her to eat properly again, as well as alleviating many of her other symptoms. But she described knowing it depended on raising the mammoth sum as ‘daunting’.

She said: “I’ve given myself a year, I don’t want to think about what will happen if I can't raise the money."

ALSO READ: Doctor hits out at lack of protective gear for coronavirus training

Explaining the operation on a fundraising page she has created to try to pay for the treatment, she said: “CCI is when the neck is not properly supporting the skull, and so the skull is crushing the brain stem.

"Spinal fusion surgery will put a stent on the back of my head, to lift and support my skull, allowing me to properly swallow, as well as, stop my skull from crushing my brain stem, which is very painful.”

She added she also had related problems which blocked the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and created intracranial pressure.

Ms Miller said: “There is a need for urgency because as my skull rubs away, and sinks lower, more complications, as well as, a further reduction in my ability to swallow, arise.Others in my situation have lost the ability to breath, stand and/or have done irreversible damage to their spines.”

Oxford Mail:

She added: “I’ve missed out on so much. I try not to think about it too much because it’s overwhelming. I can’t have a relationship. I never had kids, who knows if I would have but the option was taken away.

"I can’t work and my immune system is compromised so I have to stay in the house the majority of the time.”

The former graphic designer said this all took a mental health toll, as did the years without a diagnosis.

To donate search fundraising website gofundme for ‘spinal fusion surgery Katie Miller’ of click here.

It has so far raised £860.