Nurse's gratitude at 'touching' gift

PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 April 2016

Michelle Syms

Michelle Syms


A Worle nurse who suffered serious facial burns in a childhood accident said she is 'overwhelmed' after the community rallied round to buy her an expensive medical device which prevents her from dying in her sleep.

Michelle Syms suffers from obstructive sleep apnoea, which requires her to wear a mask at night to make sure she does not stop breathing while asleep.

However, the 38-year-old cannot wear masks usually used to treat the condition as severe burns around her mouth mean the device will not fit her face. Instead Michelle uses a mouthpiece which brings her lower jaw forward and opens her airway.

Michelle – who is a sister in the anaesthesia and recovery department at Weston General Hospital – said: “I was burned by a candle at a Halloween party aged eight, so I have got lots of scarring and have had lots of surgery over the years to reconstruct various parts of me. That is one of the reasons why a gold-standard treatment for sleep apnoea does not really work.

“I first noticed it (sleep apnoea) when I was pregnant. I do actually sleep, but I am not getting any depth of sleep.

“I would be asleep and I would leap out of bed gasping for breath, and every time I got into bed, I would be gasping for breath. You also get bad headaches which are blinding. It is the worst thing – you think your skull will cave in.

“Without it (the mouthpiece) it’s very difficult and scary and you get no rest whatsoever. My boy used to cry his eyes out thinking I would not wake up.”

The mouthpiece costs thousands 
of pounds to make but as it is made 
of thin metal wires, it is prone to 
breaking – which leaves Michelle, of Copperfield Drive, without the lifesaving support.

As she could not afford to buy a back-up device, Michelle’s colleagues set up a crowdfunding page to buy her a second mouthpiece, and their fundraising efforts were boosted when Weston Lions Club donated £600 to the cause.

She said: “While they are making a new design I have got nothing and it takes four to six weeks. It is the only thing which is available.

“Originally it cost me about £2,000 so the idea was that my friends at work said they would do something to buy me a spare. They did crowdfunding, cake sales and then the Lions donated £600 so we were able to buy it.

“It just gives me that back-up so when something goes wrong, I can cope.”

“What can I say? I have been so overwhelmed with the help they have given me.

“All the girls from work were amazing and the Lions were incredible. To be able to donate that and take the pressure off the girls was amazing, and I do not really know what to do or say to them. It was really touching.”

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