A Thornton teenager looking forward to a bright future in the RAF had to drastically change her life when she began to suffer from pain so severe she could barely move.
For eight months, doctors had no idea what had caused 19-year-old sports star Madi Baldwin to develop the intense pain in her abdomen.
She said: “I can’t do any exercise whatsoever. Things like driving are nearly impossible with how much pain it causes me just from turning the steering wheel. I used to be very fit.”
Madi, of Sandwell Avenue, was just 15 when she passed the RAF officer exam and was accepted to Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College in Loughborough.
She was a keen runner, took part in the school’s athletics and cross-country teams, and in 2017 she scaled Britain’s three most famous mountains in the national three peaks challenge.
But just two months after beating Ben Nevis, she woke up with a stomach ache that would change her life forever.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t have anyone touching my stomach,” she said. “I’d start to run and I’d be in that much pain I had to stop.
“I was admitted to hospital for three weeks in Blackpool and had lots of tests and they found nothing. The doctors had no idea what was wrong with me.
“It was upsetting. You know your body better than anybody else does, and from seeing how I was in college compared to how I had become, I knew something was wrong.
“I was continuously dismissed that there was nothing wrong, and I wasn’t believing it.”
Desperate, Madi and her parents paid to go private at the Spire Manchester Hospital, and in April 2018 she was diagnosed with abdominal myofascial pain syndrome and anterior cutaneous nerve entrapment syndrome - both chronic pain disorders.
She said: “I’d always said throughout the whole process if I got a diagnosis it would make it so much easier to understand my life. Now I can put things in perspective.
“It’s not nice, obviously, because I can’t get rid of it - but it hasn’t stopped me. I’m not in the RAF any more but I’m going to university in September to do construction project management.
“I’m still trying to find a consultant who understands my condition. I still haven’t found the person I need who can say ‘this is what we can do to help you’.
“My life has changed totally. It does put a lot of restrictions on me and a lot of barriers have gone up that I never thought would. You take everything for granted when you have got it every day. How much did I take for granted before all this happened?
“I can’t walk. I’m in my wheelchair all the time. That’s a massive thing, from being a cross-country runner to now. It’s like my life has been flipped upside down.”
In the hope of helping others with chronic pain conditions like her own, Madi spent three months organising a charity football tournament, which took place at Poolfoot Farm on Saturday.
Around 100 amateur footballers and spectators raised £1,009 for Away With Pain, the chronic pain support charity.
Madi, who works part time at Affinity Lancashire, said: “It was amazing. I’m still overwhelmed by how many people came and how much money we raised.
“I would have loved to have taken part. I would have loved to have got involve . But it was quite nice on the day to just sit back and relax because it’s had three months of hard work put into it.
“The problem is that with many chronic illnesses, if they are caught within three months they can potentially be cured.
I waited eight months for a diagnosis and because of how long it has taken, I can no longer be cured.
“However, if I can raise more awareness of it, then more people will see their doctors, and more people will be cured.”