A twenty three year old Clonmel woman whose life is in shutdown due to rare brain and spinal conditions is to undergo surgery this Friday (August 24th).
After enduring multiple spinal operations over the last six years, Emma Lacey was diagnosed with a chiari malformation brain condition in February.
Emma was a ferocious competitor on the field for Moyle Rovers, a member of Clonmel Rugby Club, Hillview and Clonmel Rowing Club and an award winning Brú Ború musician prior to her illness.
The surgery will be carried out to try and relieve pressure on her swollen brain and halt a progressive deterioration in function.
The brain is too large to fit into the skull and is being pushed into her spinal canal blocking the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, causing excruciating pain and mobility issues.
"I had a normal hectic life playing football, camogie, tennis, rugby and enjoying playing music with my friends, going to Fleadh Cheoils and teaching the tin whistle. All of that came to an abrupt end at seventeen and I have lost the best years of my life. I want to get some of my life back" said Emma who is living with chronic pain after having five spinal surgeries in the last six years.
A disabling degenerative disc disease at three levels of her spine and a progressive disease called spinal stenosis have cruelly taken the best years of her life.
On the August Bank Holiday weekend The Emma Lacey Trust was launched in Lonergans in Clonmel when musicians from all over the country entertained huge crowds.
Friends are coming together to raise funds to support Emma and her family to provide a downstairs extension for an urgently needed bedroom and shower facility. It will also provide assistance with on going medical costs under orthopaedic, neurosurgery and pain and management consultants and the provision of a range of professional services such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychology during the long journey of rehabilitation ahead for the former Rathkeevin, Powerstown and Loreto student.
"There has been an incredible response from the community and there is an enormous amount of goodwill out there to support Emma" said Paudie Everard ,Chairman of the Emma Lacey Trust.
In February a life of isolation, intractable pain, increasing opioid medication and disability took another devastating turn for the worst when she was diagnosed with a serious brain condition.
Following the brain surgery, which is taking place on August 24th, Emma is also facing a sixth operation on her spine because the spinal stenosis has moved up another level in her back before she attends the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.
People who would like to donate to the Emma Lacey Trust can use this Go Fund Me link HERE.
A number of events are planned over the next few months including a tea/coffee morning in Hillview on September 1st, a Clonmel Band Aid event on Sunday, September 9th in Gleesons, a 5k fun run/walk will be held in Powerstown Park, Clonmel on Sunday, September 16th and on Friday 28th September a gala concert will be held in Monroe at the Moyle Rovers GAA grounds.
At seventeen years of age a busy life was suddenly brought to a standstill for Emma, a daughter of Eamon and Joan and sister to Sinead and Brian. Emma, from Beechwood Close in Clonmel, experienced pain for the first time on a flight to Africa on her way to volunteer in a children's hospital and orphanage. She realised it was serious when she pulled up running around Powerstown Park with a pain down her leg on her return home. She never ran or walked properly since and an active sporting life with Moyle Rovers, Hillview, Clonmel Rugby Club and Clonmel Rowing club came to an abrupt end.
She was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease at three levels of her spine and underwent her first operation in May of 2013 and was unable to sit her Leaving Certificate at the Loreto as a result. She returned the following September but required another operation in February after the disc prolapsed but somehow managed to do the Leaving Cert later that year despite missing huge chunks of the school year.
Her condition continued to deteriorate making life very difficult for her as she attempted to attend Galway University studying Irish and media .
Emma was then diagnosed with progressive spinal stenosis before a spinal fusion operation was carried out on two levels of her spine in October 2015. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, putting pressure on the nerves which normally occurs in people over sixty so the level of stenosis and how aggressive it is is very rare for her age. Following the operation Emma never walked without the assistance of two crutches and mobility gradually deteriorated further over the next few years.
Increasing levels of pain, opioid medication and worsening mobility issues forced Emma to leave her studies at Galway University who were very supportive of Emma's struggle to remain in college.
Emma became seriously ill last summer when admitted to Galway University Hospital. After being discharged Emma moved to a downstairs room and since then has required a walker to get around the house and uses a wheelchair on the rare occasions she goes outside. Emma collapsed at home in February and was diagnosed with the chiari malformation brain condition at South Tipperary General Hospital.
The most recent scans have also shown a deterioration in the spine with the stenosis moving up a level of the spine and a further operation is required which will take place following the brain surgery.
Details of up coming fund raising events can be found at the following the Emma Lacey Trust Facebook page HERE