Woman who went on three-day laughing gas benders now needs dad’s help to shower

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A woman who was left paralysed after going on three-day laughing gas benders now has to rely on her dad for round-the-clock care.

Kerry Donaldson, who says her ‘hippy crack’ binges damaged her spinal cord, is sharing her story in a bid to raise awareness about the dangers of inhaling nitrous oxide – known as laughing gas – which is a colourless gas that is most commonly found in pressurised metal canisters.

The former receptionist started the habit through balloons with her friends at weekends in 2017.

However she found her usage soon escalated into three-day binges that would leave the 25-year-old seriously ill and vomiting for days.

After a series of trips to hospital due to numbness in her hands and legs, Kerry quit balloons in 2020.

But in January 2022, Kerry was hospitalised and given the news that her habit had led to a disc bulge in her lower back – leaving her unable to walk.

The young woman is now dependent on her family for constant care and must use a wheelchair to get around.

Videos shared online document her health struggles, with footage showing Kerry struggling to rise to her feet and needing her brother to step in and support her.

Kerry, from Newham, Greater London, said: “I started using nitrous oxide roughly four to five years ago.

“I was doing it on-and-off, usually at the weekends. It was the social thing, everybody was doing it.

“I didn’t really understand the damage that it could cause. I just thought it was a bit of fun, I didn’t think it would harm me. I was uneducated on the subject.

“Not long after that, I started losing feeling in my legs and hands.

“I went to the hospital and I was really honest to the doctors about using nitrous oxide. My B12 levels were low so I was put on B12 injections.

“At the time, I didn’t care. I knew it was damaging me, but I didn’t care.

“I never thought it’d get to a point where I’d be unable to walk and I’d need to use a wheelchair.

“About two years ago I started losing feeling in my left leg. I was doing balloons regularly at that point.

“I was using them for three days and then I’d be vomiting for the next few days.

“I wouldn’t be able to drink water or eat anything. I’d be sick and sleep for like 12 hours, I was unable to do much.

“Then I’d wake up and do it all over again, it’d be like a cycle.

“But when I went into hospital in 2020, that’s when I stopped.

“I was walking with a crutch for about a year and a half. I was getting B12 injections until the end of last year.

“I had been feeling pain in my lower back. I knew it was because of the balloons, but I was just ignoring it.”

After experiencing initial health issues caused by nitrous oxide, things took a turn for the worst early in 2022 when Kerry was taken to Newham University Hospital.

Kerry said: “When I went in, I couldn’t even walk and the pain had come back even stronger. I had MRI scans and they saw that I had a disc bulge in my lower back and nerve damage.

“This was obviously caused by the balloons. I’d left it for so long and hadn’t gotten it treated so the damage had gotten worse.

“I was in hospital for five weeks and came out in March. I’ve been unable to walk and on medication since.

“I’m hoping it will get better in time. Nobody can really tell, it’s not like a test can be done and tell me if I’ll get better.

“I take every day as it comes and hope for the best. I’m taking my medication and doing as much physio as I can.”

Previously independent Kerry now relies on her dad to care for her day-to-day needs – including eating and washing.

Kerry said: “Before I could go out whenever I liked and easily go in the shower.

“Now my dad has to take me to the shower and the bath has been altered to make it easier for me to get in and out.

“All my meals are prepared for me by my dad. He’s my carer, I’m so appreciative of him, he’s changed what he does with his life to cater for me.

“Even when it comes to going out it’s difficult. I just got my wheelchair recently, before that I’d have to go out in a commode chair and somebody would have to push me.”

Kerry is now sharing her story online in a bid to ensure no-one else goes through what she has.

She said: “When I was told I wouldn’t be able to walk, it was a little bit depressing at the start.

“But as time has gone on, I’ve been sharing my story online and I’ve been getting messages from people who want advice and have stopped doing balloons.

“It’s been stressful, but I’ve turned it around into a positive. If I can help someone and prevent them going through what I’m going through, then I’m happy with that at the end of the day.

“I’m trying to make the best of the situation. Of course I regret using nitrous oxide, I wish I was more educated.

“I wish I knew then what I know now, as that would have probably prevented me from using it.

“But now I’m in this situation, I can’t dwell on the past and keep thinking about the negatives.

“My situation could help someone not to go through this. So I don’t look back and think about it too much, as it won’t make me feel any better. It’s all about helping others now.”

Now Kerry wants to take her message beyond social media and into schools and universities to help as many people as possible.

Kerry said: “I want to go into schools and colleges to speak to young people and educate them. I want to go to universities too, as I know balloons are used a lot there.

“There needs to be a lot more education regarding nitrous oxide use. I don’t think a lot of people know about the potential effects.

“A lot of people think it’s just a bit of fun and it can’t do any harm to your body.

“I’m constantly in pain, but I’ve gotten used to the pain. I don’t even remember how it feels not to have pain.

“I wasn’t reluctant about sharing my story online. I had people around me saying ‘are you sure you want to share this?’.

“In life, no matter what you do, people will say things about it. If I speak out and people have something bad to say, I won’t entertain it.

“I know there’ll be a lot of good to come out from speaking out, and that’s what is important to me.”