Strangers walked over and around Kelly Boyson, refusing to help.
The 31-year-old hadn't touched a drop of booze, it was half eight in the morning and she was on her way to work.
Instead, she had suffered a sudden attack of a rare disease, that causes her to collapse for hours on end.
The condition, Ménière’s disease, has resulted in Kelly being thrown out of bars and clubs, with bouncers assuming she'd drunk too much.
Kelly, from Berkshire, has suffered attacks since 2014.
Her first happened when she was working in recruitment, sat at her computer, when everything started spinning.
As it only lasted a few moments, she put it down to having not eaten enough.
“It didn’t last very long so I just pushed it to the back of my mind. But then it happened a few more times and that’s when I got worried.
"I experienced it six times in a month, and then I had a terrible ear infection," Kelly said.
“I went to my GP and he said I had labyrinthitis and gave me some betahistine tablets. The problem was, it didn’t stop.
“I went back to see my GP seven more times and then saw two ENT specialists. The second ENT specialist immediately diagnosed me with Ménière’s disease in March 2015. That was a relief because it meant I wasn’t going completely mad."
There's no specific treatment for Ménière’s disease and there’s no cure.
Kelly has had a number of steroid injections in her eardrum, which haven't helped, and has now been fitted with a grommet (a tube implanted in the eardrum to drain fluid from the middle ear).
What is Ménière’s disease?
Ménière’s disease is a chronic and progressive condition which affects balance and hearing.
Symptoms can include:
- feeling like the room is spinning (vertigo)
- ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
- ear pressure felt inside the ear
- hearing loss
- feeling sick
Symptoms tend to happen all at once and can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
There's no treatment for it but you can get medication for controlling vertigo, nausea and vomiting.
Tinnitus, hearing loss and loss of balance can also be treated.
During an attack, the NHS advises sufferers to:
- take your medication
- sit or lie down
- close your eyes
- keep your head still
- only move slowly if you have to move at all
“I was having drop attacks up to four times a week which meant I couldn’t go out alone as it could happen anywhere, which was dangerous; I was housebound for 18 months.
“First, I lose pressure in my ear and get terrible tinnitus, then I fall straight to the floor. It’s extreme vertigo and I can be standing talking to someone when it suddenly happens.
“It has nothing to do with heights or movement, but they can last hours."
Her terrifying Tube incident lasted for four hours.
She says that an ambulance was called but they said she wasn’t an emergency due to the fact the spinning would pass.
"It was the morning rush hour and people were just walking over me because, to them, I looked drunk. In the end, a transport police officer took me to the hospital in a taxi.
“One also happened in a nightclub and my friend had to tell the bouncers that I wasn’t drunk. I wasn’t allowed to lock doors so people could get in to help me in an emergency. I couldn’t go out alone in case an attack happened in the middle of the road.
“My work was so supportive, and we made a mutual agreement for me to leave because I’d been off for months with statutory sick pay.”
The condition has altered Kelly’s life entirely and while she was out of work, she designed her own adult colouring book, whilst she was off sick, with designs showcasing some of the world’s most iconic landmarks.
Four years after her condition first developed, Kelly was able to start a part-time job as a fundraiser for the Ménière’s society.
At the same time, Kelly started sharing her journey on Instagram, to educate more people about the often unheard of condition.
“Whilst I was off sick, I became depressed and anxious, I knew I needed to do something, so I started drawing,” said Kelly.
“It kept my mind busy, I didn’t overthink what was happening to me and it gave me a purpose. You lose a lot of yourself when something like this happens, you have to adapt a lot and develop a new you.
“It took about two years before I really started living again. I still have balance problems, I’ve lost 50 per cent of my hearing in my left ear.
“My diagnosis really knocked my confidence and I worried what people would think of me. I was really worried about dating because I didn’t want men to see me as defective."
She says that she'd never heard of the condition before being diagnosed with it, and that she's sharing her story in the hope of helping someone else realise that they're not alone.
“If you can’t see the illness or disability, most people don’t believe it’s there.
"None of us knows what’s happened to the person next to us and they may look fine, but underneath that smile might be something different.
“People need to think about what they say and not be judgemental – that person getting out of their car in the disabled space who looks better than you do probably struggle to get out of bed or to shower.
“They probably have a serious illness you’ve never heard of and will probably never understand. Judging them from afar isn’t fair."
You can follow Kelly's journey on Instagram here.
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