A Melbourne mum has opened up about how her “bad headache” turned out to be something far more sinister.
In September 2021, Lauren Sneddon was struck down with a terrible migraine, so she decided to take it easy and sleep it off.
But the 35-year-old had no idea that this seemingly innocent ailment was a symptom of a very serious illness that would change her life forever.
The mum-of-two’s headache only worsened, and she was left bedridden in the days that followed as she began suffering from a host of debilitating health issues.
Lauren was terrified after she became blind in her left eye, had lost her sense of spatial awareness, was slurring her speech and was unable to pick up her children.
“I came home from work, and had this ache all down my neck and a dull headache,” Lauren told news.com.au.
“I thought that I’d be staring at the computer screen too long, and just needed to go to bed and nip it in the bud, thinking that it would be better by tomorrow.
“But during the night, I was in pure agony. It was pulsating in the front of my head, so I took some painkillers.
“It all went downhill after that. I was bedridden for a week after that. I couldn’t eat, hardly drank or left the room.
“My husband came home one afternoon, and asked me to try and drink some water, as he was worried I wasn’t hydrated. That’s when I realised I couldn’t see out of my left eye.
“At first I thought it was just because I’d been in the dark, but then I went to grab my water bottle and I missed it. I was reaching 30cm over from where it was.
“I had no sense of spatial awareness. I called out for help, but I couldn’t speak properly, my words were all slurred. I knew what I wanted to say but it wasn’t coming out.
“That’s when I got really scared.”
Her husband Brendan rushed Lauren to the emergency room, where she stayed for five days and underwent a series of tests, but unfortunately doctors were unable to get a diagnosis.
She was sent home to rest, but things only got worse.
Later that night, Lauren was unable to walk, use her hands, and could not remember simple details such as her children’s names, where she lived, or what day of the week it was.
She was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, where she remained for 10 days to undergo further tests.
It was then in February 2022 that doctors found something that would finally give Lauren the answers she had been desperate for – but at the same time, would turn he world upside down.
“The scans showed that I had holes in the lining of my brain,” she said.
“I had a lumbar puncture, and blood taken. Then I had another attack, and that’s when doctors diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis (MS)
“It was hard news to take. I went through a grieving process.
“I was in denial at first. I thought I’m young, there is no way I could let it beat me.
“This turned to sadness. I was sad that I had this disease I could never get rid of.
“Then I was scared about what was going to happen, and what the future held.”
MS is the most commonly acquired neurological disease affecting young adults.
In Australia, it affects three times more women than men.
The disease attacks the central nervous system and progresses over time, with the symptoms, severity and duration varying from person to person. Some people may be symptom-free for most of their lives, while others can have severe, chronic symptoms forever.
There is currently no cure for MS, only treatments to slow the progression of the disease.
However, even with these treatments, Lauren said her body will deteriorate.
Autologous Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (AHSCT) is an option that aims to halt MS.
It involves harvesting stem cells from the patient, who then undergo chemotherapy before the stem cells are reintroduced into the body in the hopes of “rebooting” the immune system.
It works by using the chemo to essentially eradicate the existing immune system and then uses the stem cells to reset the immune system to stop it from attacking the body.
AHSCT only in the trial phase in Australia, and sadly Lauren does not qualify – so instead, she is flying to Mexico in March 2023 to undergo treatment.
“I found another Australian woman with MS who went to Mexico for the treatment earlier this year,” she said.
“It turns out, she lives quite near me, so we had her and her husband over for lunch so I could hear about her experience.
“After that, I applied and was accepted. The only problem was how I was going to afford it.
“My dear friends set up a Go Fund Me account for me, and it has just taken off. I was so overwhelmed and grateful.
“People have been so generous. The kindness of strangers has really been a huge part of this, and I am so touched.
“If anyone is donating to me, please know, I will only use what I need. Anything leftover will be donated to others with MS.
“I am leaving my husband and children behind for a month, but my mum will be there with me.
“I want to live a long, healthy life, and be there for my kids. I owe it to them to try everything possible to overcome this.”