UK mum accused of drug smuggling after life-saving brain surgery in Spain

A British mum who had life-saving brain surgery in Spain was stopped by UK Border Force officials who accused her of drug smuggling.

Rachel Pighills, 36, was left at risk of being "internally decapitated" following a freak ceiling fan accident.

She was moving into a new house in August 2018 when the whizzing blades of the fan smashed her on the back of the head.

The impact left her with atlanto axial instability and basilar invagination - meaning her brain was literally sinking into her spine.

It meant she could no longer turn her head because each time she did her spine would partially dislocate, increasing the risk of paralysis or death.

Rachel and husband Guy, 41, spent almost four years trying to raise £215,000 for pioneering surgery which is not available on the NHS.

They finally reached the milestone earlier this year thanks to a woman in her 60s from Warwickshire who loaned them £130,000.

After being told it was too risky for Rachel to travel to Barcelona by plane for the operation, Guy drove her 1,055 miles in a second-hand ambulance.

The 13-and-a-half-hour surgery on May 20 involved inserting metal rods into her spine and re-setting the position of her skull and brain stem.

The operation was a success and after almost four weeks in hospital, Rachel and Guy drove back to the UK on June 17.

But after a 20-hour overnight ferry from Santander to Plymouth, they were stopped by Border Force officials who accused them of drug smuggling.

Disturbing images show a sobbing Rachel lying on a stretcher while connected to an oxygen tank inside a warehouse at the docks.

Officials took almost four hours to complete their meticulous search of the ambulance

before allowing the couple to continue on their journey.

In an ironic twist, the couple say the officials and sniffer dogs failed to detect powerful opiates which Rachel had been given by the clinic to control the pain.

The couple, who have a 14-year-old daughter, eventually made it back home to their home in Pershore, Worcs., where Rachel is now recovering.

The couple are now raising money to pay back the £130,000 loan.

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