London – A young mother has been left unable to walk after her regular use of party high ‘hippy crack’ caused spinal cord damage.
Olivia Golding, 24, has lost feeling in her body from the chest down after contracting a disease from inhaling nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, through balloons.
She had been consuming up to 15 balloons a weekend while her three-year-old son Parker visited his father.
But last Friday she woke up unable to move and had to ask Parker to get her phone to call for help.
Miss Golding is now having to relearn how to walk and use her hands, after doctors said the nitrous oxide (NOS) had caused Lichtheim’s disease – also known as subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord.
The car salesman, from Bristol, said: ‘About a month before I was doing a balloon and I got pins and needles in my neck and back. I started feeling numb in my body. But I never dreamt it was the balloons so I just carried on doing them.
‘One day I was walking in the park with my son and taking him swimming, the next day I couldn’t move.’
The mother-of-one was admitted to Bristol’s Southmead Hospital where tests revealed the top of her spinal cord was damaged.
‘They asked me if I took NOS and I was like, “Sure, I’ve done a lot of them”,’ she said.
Miss Golding added: ‘I cannot even put Parker’s shoes on for him and it’s the things like that [which] break my heart. My son wants me to play with him and I can’t do that. I can’t feel my legs, my whole body is twitching.
‘I cannot take myself to the toilet, feed myself or have a drink.’
Lichtheim’s disease is thought to start when nitrous oxide starves the body of the vitamin B12 by stopping it being properly absorbed.
The lack of vitamin B12 damages the fatty sheath protecting nerve fibres in the spinal cord which control movement and sensation. The condition is treated with vitamin B12 injections – which Miss Golding is receiving – and most people recover completely if this happens within a few weeks of symptoms starting.
If treatment is delayed, they may not recover from movement problems caused by the irreversible damage to their nervous system. After a week in hospital, Miss Golding has managed to take 12 steps with help of physiotherapists. She is expected to spend a significant time in hospital with long term rehabilitation.
It is illegal to supply or import NOS for human consumption, but the small silver canisters are still available in shops as they are legally used for whipping cream and as an anaesthetic.