A young mother of five battling a heartbreaking disease that's left her barely able to leave bed and "in chronic pain day and night" has shared how her young children have stepped up to support the family as she searches for treatment.
Corrina Farrell, 27, — who has five children under the age of 10 with her husband Beau — was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) just over a year ago. The illness has left her bedridden, impacted her vision and speech, and has seen her hospitalised a total of seven times in the last year "for up to six days at a time".
Farrell, from Muswellbrook in the NSW Hunter Valley, describes her constant pain as "feeling like being submerged into an ice bath" with "electric shocks". She said her eldest children, Alora, 10, and Nixon, 8, have been forced to grow up and support their mother and younger siblings while their dad works in the mines.
Young mum struck down in her prime
Currently, there is no cure for Farrell's type of MS, which has also impacted her cognitive function, though some treatments can help control the condition and reduce the severity of some of her symptoms.
"My eldest daughter is so great, she just gets the kids up, gets them ready, does their hair and gets their lunchboxes ready," Farrell, who was diagnosed shortly after the birth of her youngest daughter, told The Project. "My son, he gets breakfast organised — it's team work. It's crazy, they're loud, but their beautiful kids, I feel like I've hit the jackpot."
Mum finds it difficult to leave bed most days
Describing her symptoms, Farrell said she finds it difficult to leave bed most days. "It's like a baby giraffe trying to walk," she said. "I'm telling myself to walk but my legs just don't move."
Alora, who has picked up much of the housework, recalled her mum's "many falls", while Nixon said his mum "was sometimes very tired and feels sick" and "just wants to lay in bed all day".
"Sometimes when they're are in a cranky mood, they don't listen and can be a bit cheeky," Nixon said of his younger siblings.
Primary school-aged kids 'basically parent themselves'
Farrell spoke of her gratitude that her kids "basically parent themselves" while she's struck down. "All I want back is to just be a parent," she said through tears. "I want to get them ready for school, I want to do their hair, I want to get them breakfast, I want to do all of that".
Despite treatment attempts through various forms of therapy, Farrell said she's still constantly in and out of hospital. A trial of stem-cell transplants to slow the MS is now underway in Australia, but Farrell explained that tragically, she didn't qualify. "It killed me, it absolutely killed me," she said.
Now, the young mum is prepared to travel to one of four countries trialing the new treatment: England, Switzerland, Russia and Panama. "There's a chance that it does slow it down and I want that chance because I want to be there for my kids," Farrell said. "I just want to be a mum".
Reading a letter written to her mum, Alora described her unconditional love for her.
"Dear mum, thank you for everything you do for me. You are the best mum in the world, I love every single thing about you. I know some days you can't get out of bed and that's ok because I still love you," she said.
It's not immediately apparent which form of MS Farrell is suffering from. A fundraiser to support Farrell through her journey can be found here.
Multiple sclerosis quick facts
There are three main types of MS: relapsing remitting MS (RRMS), secondary progressive MS (SPMS) and primary progressive MS (PPMS). The classification of disease depends on its activity and progression.
Identifying the type of MS is important in order to assign the most appropriate disease modifying therapy (drug treatment) for each person and to assist in clinical decisions.
A person is usually diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.
There is no accurate way to predict an individual’s course of multiple sclerosis (MS), as the condition varies greatly between cases.
Some MS patients feel and seem healthy for years after a diagnosis, while others progress more quickly.
The latest data has shown roughly 33,335 Australians were living with MS in 2021.
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