Info available on debilitating spinal condition

As many know, coping with a debilitating illness is not easy, especially one that is under-diagnosed.

My medical condition is rare and that’s why I believe it’s important to raise awareness about it.

Every year, five in 100,000 people are diagnosed with a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. This condition results from a small tear or hole in the outer membrane and causes spinal fluid to leak into the body. As a result, standing or sitting causes the brain to slump because there isn’t enough fluid to cushion it.

When the brain slumps it causes severe pain, blurred vision, eye pain, neck and back pain, hearing impairment, spasms, nausea and many other symptoms. The only way to relieve the symptoms is to lie down.

A CSF leak can happen at any age through trauma or other injury, and is not confined to people with a spinal cord injury. Did you know actor George Clooney is a leaker, having sustained his injury while filming a movie? The average age for a (CSF) leak is 42, and it’s believed women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition.

The injury that resulted in my leak occurred in February. My condition progressively worsened through March and April until it became nearly impossible to function throughout the day. Since then, I have had three procedures (two unsuccessful) to repair the hole in my membrane.

I’ve done my best to cope with this condition, while fulfilling my responsibilities as Minister, and running and being re-elected as MLA for Parksville-Qualicum. While I participated in local all-candidates meetings, attended dozens of public events, made hundreds of phone calls and sent just as many emails during the campaign, I wish I could have done more.

I am so grateful to the volunteers and supporters who carried on while I was at my weakest and want to thank everyone for the well wishes and amazing support. I am continuing to heal and feel I am finally making progress and should be back to my old self in no time.

For more information about this medical condition, visit

Michelle Stilwell