I'm going to tell you a story, about a young woman named Amy May. You won't understand how important it is that you read her story, unless you actually read it. But it's a story that desperately needs to be known.
If I could just show you a picture of her, you'd peer closer at your screen and you'd take notice. You'd ask me questions. You'd ask me "why?" and "what happened?". But now it's my responsibility to show you Amy through words.
This is what happened.
In the autumn of 1987 a little girl was born an only child to doting parents. Amy May grew to become a kind-hearted young woman with a huge love of animals, a wicked sense of humour and the biggest belly laugh you'd ever hear. She went on to study Journalism at university, making many friends along the way, and began a successful career in London working behind the scenes in television - though she was so glamourous-looking you'd say she belonged in front of the cameras.
In April 2014, when Amy was 26, she went to Budapest for the weekend with some friends. One night they went out for dinner and she ordered Mediterranean chicken with rice. Doesn't sound that remarkable, right? However, taking just one bite of that dish completely devastated her life. Why? Her nut allergy wasn't taken seriously.
Don't get me wrong - no one took Amy's allergy more seriously than Amy. Everywhere she went she carried epi pens and medical cards in every language to show restaurant staff. Unfortunately this one waiter assured her that her food was completely nut-free, although it wasn't. Within minutes of eating a mouthful, Amy's throat quickly swelled up, despite her administering two epi pens. Her brain deprived of oxygen for six minutes, she went into cardiac arrest on the pavement outside the restaurant shortly after. What followed was a three-week induced coma to decrease brain swelling, months in an intensive care unit, countless infections, a collapsed lung and three bouts of septicaemia.
Almost two years later my beautiful friend is in a wheelchair, unable to walk or talk. She lives in a care home where she is fed through a tube and is unable to wash herself.
That single bite of food caused Amy May to become severely brain damaged. And enclosed inside her helpless body with its fragile limbs and twisted hands is complete awareness. She remembers everything and understands exactly what has happened to her. After she woke up, it took around a year for her to stop crying every day.
Yet Amy's story hasn't ended yet - it's ongoing because she is one determined young lady. In 23 months she's gone from being virtually vegetative to laughing, swallowing, communicating and having a number of therapies to help get the old Amy back. I'm so proud of her.
Amy May Shead. To you, her name is unfamiliar - but to me and so many others it's a mantra of true bravery and resilience.
So, that's Amy May's story. Why it needs to be known is simple. People have to understand that allergies ARE serious. It's not always a fad. Flippancy could literally kill someone, or ruin their life as they know it.
Please pass on the message.
It's fitting that I won the Listserve the day after I ran my first ever half marathon - training for next month's London Marathon, which I'm running for The Amy May Trust. Please do get in touch on email, Twitter or Instagram to find out more.
Thanks for reading,