A former paralegal was rushed to hospital after suffering a seizure and then lost her sight for two weeks, caused by a trip to the hairdressers.
Amanda Wilkinson was left fighting for her life a day after she had a wash and blow-dry, in which the hair conditioner caused a toxic reaction.
The 56-year-old collapsed and started having a fit, before being rushed to hospital where doctors told Amanda she had Hashimoto’s disease – her body was attacking her thyroid gland – and that in severe cases like hers, it caused normal functions like breathing and heart rate to be affected.
It was also suspected she had encephalitis - inflammation of the brain – and after a lumbar puncture was performed, Amanda’s health deteriorated.
Her sight returned after two weeks but she began having screaming episodes, which the doctors described as a tic.
After six weeks in hospital Amanda, who was once an athlete and squash champion, has lost her job and has been left bedridden.
She lives with the tic and other problems including weight gain, thinning hair, skin rashes, throat problems, frequent nosebleeds, and the inability to concentrate.
“My life is ruined,” she said.
“It was a normal day when I went to the hairdressers for a wash and blow-dry. Once a month, I went to the salon for the same treat. I was a paralegal by day and in my spare time, I was a squash champion and enjoyed skiing and cycling holidays. When my hair wasn’t tied up for work or sport, I liked it to look its best, especially when I was out with my friends.”
Amanda’s hair was washed and an intensive conditioner was applied to repair any damage.
“My hair was bleached, so I agreed it probably needed some TLC. I was initially happy with the result but hours later when I looked in the mirror at home, my hair was standing on end. When I touched it, it broke off in my hands.”
Amanda, from Pinner, London, returned to the salon to complain, who claimed they had never seen anything like it before.
She said: “The next day I didn’t feel myself. I was confused and kept falling over. I hoped I’d feel better after a night’s sleep, but I woke up feeling the same. Then later on, I was in the living room chatting to a friend when my whole body suddenly started shaking.”
Amanda’s friend called for an ambulance and she was rushed to hospital where she was told she had had a seizure.
She had some blood tests and was told she had Hashimoto’s disease, a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid - a small gland at the base of your neck.
“The doctor told me it was likely I had suffered a toxic reaction to the hair product, which had triggered the disease. I was prescribed levothyroxine and told I had to take it for the rest of my life. The doctors also suspected I had encephalitis, inflammation of the brain.”
Amanda was given a lumbar puncture for diagnostic testing.
“It was a trainee doctor performing the procedure and it took him several attempts to get the sample of fluid from my spinal cord. By the time he finished, I was in agony.”
After the lumbar puncture, Amanda was taken by ambulance to National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square, London. That evening, her health got worse and her eyesight became so badly blurred that she couldn’t see - for two weeks.
“Every day I woke up hoping it was all a bad dream,” she said. “Eventually my sight returned, but then I started having the screaming episodes, which a doctor told me was a tic.”
“Now my sporting days are over and so is my career – my bad health caused me to be made redundant from my job as a successful paralegal.”
“My tic disorder involves episodes of screaming and repeating everything. I am a completely different person to who I was before this nightmare. This, along with my other health issues means I’ve also lost contact with my family and friends.”
“Doctors say my case of Hashimoto’s disease is among the worst 2% in the country. I still can’t believe an innocent trip to the hairdressers stripped me of everything, all because of a reaction. It’s unlikely I will ever get my old life back, but all I can do is hope.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland tissue, gradually destroying it until it can’t produce enough thyroid hormone.
It's not understood what causes the disease, but it’s usually seen in women aged 30 to 50 and often starts in adulthood. It can be diagnosed by blood tests. There is no cure, but symptoms can be treated with levothyroxine, thyroid hormone replacement medication.