A mother has spoken of the devastating consequences of a serious spinal condition to help others get diagnosed before it’s too late.

Claire Rawlings, from Darlington, was forced to give up her job as a health visitor due to the chronic severe pain and poor mobility she suffered after being struck down by Cauda Equina Syndrome.

Cauda Equina is the Latin for ‘horse’s tail’ and refers to the bundle nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord. The nerves can become compressed due to pressure from a slipped disc, a tumour, trauma from an accident, stenosis or a cyst.

Ms Rawlings, 47, is cared for by her husband Ian, as well as caring for the couple’s daughter, eight-year-old Gabrielle.

In addition to relying on crutches indoors and a wheelchair outside, Mrs Rawlings also has significant problems with her bladder and bowel and relies on medical aids to manage this.

Now, ahead of the Cauda Equina Syndrome awareness day on October 1, Ms Rawlings is sharing her story to raise awareness of the ‘red flags’ of the illness which include: leg pain or weakness, altered bladder function, including not feeling the urge to go, altered sensation when passing urine, or incontinence, and change in sensation in the groin or saddle area, for example numbness when wiping or pins.

When Ms Rawlings first developed symptoms which included severe back pain, an episode of bladder incontinence, a healthcare worker she saw in February 2016 failed to appreciate these were symptoms of Cauda Equina.

Instead of being sent for a emergency operation, Ms Rawlings was referred for a MRI scan in March, which showed that a disc at the base of Claire’s spine was putting pressure on her cauda equina nerves in her back. Urgently-needed surgery was delayed by a further two weeks, by which point it was too late to prevent permanent nerve damage from being caused.

"Cauda Equina Syndrome has had a devastating impact on my life and can happen to anyone," she said. "I’ve lost a career I loved and my family have lost the active and independent mum I used to be. Nothing can turn back the clock for me and all I can do is try to stop others from suffering the same fate.

“I am a volunteer for the Cauda Equina Champions Charity, providing support to other sufferers and it’s shocking the number of people who have gone through what I did. There needs to be more awareness of the red flags so that medical professional appreciate this is an emergency situation and the lives of whole families will be turned upside down if they don’t.”

Claire is being helped to challenge the poor care she faced by Eddie Jones, a specialist cauda equina solicitor at law firm JMW.