Circus performer mum 'blown away' by the kindness of strangers after excruciating back injury

A circus skills performer, who hasn’t been able to work for a year due to an excruciating back injury, has been overwhelmed by strangers donating money for a vital operation. Emma Rose, also known as Ember, who is constantly in terrible pain, desperately needs private surgery after coronavirus indefinitely delayed her NHS referral. The 31-year-old mother-of-two from Calstock, who trained with Cornwall’s Swamp Circus, has had a difficult few months making ends meet as her injury has meant she can’t return to working as an aerialist (aerial hoop performer) or her other job as a seamstress.

A friend has now started a fundraising page to help pay privately for an operation which could turn her life around … and see her back performing in the air. Over GBP3,000 has already been raised towards the operation, which costs just over GBP7,000.

Ember hopes to be back in the air within months

Ember said: “I’m a bit of an emotional wreck over the support I’m getting at the moment – I’ve had anonymous donations of GBP300 which just blows me away. Her friend Graeme McGregor explained her dire situation: “Ember, a loving, hard-working single mum, talented performer and a great friend, needs our help to get the surgery she desperately needs.

“Ember, 31, is a single mum to two wonderful kids Hazel and Levi, aged eight and six. They live together in rural Cornwall, in a truck that Ember converted herself into a lovely home. She has made her living running her business performing and teaching circus skills, which requires a lot of driving to teach classes.

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“So, Ember relies on her body and her physical abilities more than most.

But several months ago, Ember hurt her back while teaching. As a result, she could no longer teach, perform or drive more than short distances. “After waiting eight weeks for a specialist medical referral, she was told that she has a severely herniated L4/L5 disc in her lower back, with no natural cushioning left.

Instead, all of the disc fluid now presses down on her sciatic nerve, resulting in intense and near-constant pain through her back, her buttocks, down the back of her thigh and both sides of her calf to her ankle. “If she stands up after sitting down for more than a few seconds, the stabbing pain down her leg is so severe that it’s caused her to black out on multiple occasions.

Ember during a visit to A&E

“While waiting for surgery, she has been prescribed a cocktail of medication – eight pills every four hours – made up of anti-inflammatories and powerful opiate-based painkillers. The medication comes with a range of side effects, including nausea, loss of appetite and light-headedness.

“Although Ember has been referred for surgery on the NHS, coronavirus means the surgery pathway was closed indefinitely. It’s now been nine weeks since the referral. Even once the referral is received, she has been advised that it will be a minimum of three months until a pre-operative consultation is available, assuming that coronavirus doesn’t further delays.

“This means that Ember is currently facing months of agony, blackouts and nausea before even being assessed, and will be unable to work, make money or properly care for her children during that time.”

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Graeme added: “As her friend, I want to use this fundraiser to help Ember receive the surgery she needs more quickly, spare her months of pain and worry, and help her more quickly recover so that she can care for her children again and get her business back on its feet. “Em needs to fund a private microdiscectomy surgery, which she could get in a matter of weeks, instead of months. The operation has a 95% success rate, meaning that Ember could be able to work, care for her kids and live her life again after six weeks of recovery.

“To start, I am trying to raise GBP4,000 to contribute to the cost of her surgery, while her family are trying to find the rest of the money where they can.”

Emma ‘Ember’ Rose with son Levi in happier times

Ember told Cornwall Live she was overwhelmed by the support she has received so far and thought she’d be lucky if “a couple of hundred quid” was raised. She is desperate to get back to the life she loved – performing her aerial skills at festivals and teaching children the art of the circus. “I went to see the Moscow State Circus when I was a kid and fell in love with the lion tamer,” she said. “I wanted to be a trapeze artist and run away and join him.

“Life got in the way and I got married and had children, but I discovered aerial work and pole dancing as a way of keeping fit and then became circus obsessed!” However, it’s now been over a year since she has been able to perform. Now constantly in pain, at her worst, Ember has been unable to walk for a week and been taken “screaming in agony” to A&E in Truro.

Ember performing an aerial trick

She is critical of the NHS system but not its staff.

“Routes should be open to people like me to get treatment but there is underfunding in the NHS. I’m a member of so many support groups for people with herniated discs. It tends to be more women … and there are so many who have been dismissed by health care officials and told to go home and take painkillers.

“The pain I have suffered is far worse than childbirth – there seems to be a social aspect of women in a similar position to me being dismissed. Funding is not there for us. “I have to stress though that everyone I have encountered through the NHS has been wonderful.”

Emma and her children are currently being looked after by her mother in Cheshire, where a private operation has been booked for ten days’ time. The family will return to Cornwall when Ember has recuperated and live in Callington. She added: “The consultant has told me that I will be able to start aerial training again three months after the operation.

I’ll obviously take it steadily though….

“This is a desperate last ditch attempt to stop the pain.”

If you would like to help Ember get back on her feet and into the air, head to the GoFundMe page.

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