An army medic who developed a deadly illness after being exposed to uranium in Iraq has just weeks left to raise £100,000 for life-saving treatment.
Katrina Brown, 31, was exposed to depleted uranium – radioactive dust in bombs in bullets – while treating injured comrades at a field hospital in the war zone in 2003.
After years of failing health she was diagnosed with debilitating immune disorder so rare that neither the NHS or the MoD recognise or treat sufferers.
Doctors in America told the brave Army wife she could have pioneering treatment in Chicago to reboot her immune system, but the life-saving procedure would cost a whopping £100,000.
Determined Katrina has been forced to book the stem cell procedure for next month despite still needing to raise the final £25,000 because doctors have told her time is running out.
Katrina, from South Cerney, Gloucestershire, said: “It is not as if I’m asking for something like a swim with the dolphins to make me happy.
“I am going to die without this treatment.
“I’ve got to the point where I am about £25,000 short of the target but have gone for it.
“It’s sort of now or never anyway, because I’ve been told it will be too late for treatment if it’s left any longer.
“I’ve booked the treatment, although I have not paid for it.
“It involves taking my stem cells and giving them a massive blast of chemotherapy, and then replacing them and sort of tricking the immune system into thinking there is nothing wrong, like a reboot of the whole thing.
“It can potentially kill me – I’ll be left with literally no immune system.
“I know that, but I don’t have much choice.
“But I’ve seen the other people who’ve had what I have and they’ve had the treatment, and they are a real inspiration. It’s a recognised treatment over there, which the medical insurers in America are prepared to pay for.”
Katrina thinks she was exposed to the highly poisonous material – used to increase the penetrative power of bombs and bullets – when she was sent to a derelict airstrip called Shaibah, seven miles from Basra.
It contained dumped tanks blown up by uranium-enhanced weapons in the 1991 war.
Before flying home she was handed a white plastic card by Army officials saying she could have been exposed to dust containing depleted uranium during her deployment and should inform her GP.
But the young medic feared the complaint would be put on her medical records and could possibly stop her getting life insurance or a mortgage.
Four years later she visited her doctors because she was feeling constantly cold and numb, with aches and pains all over her body.
She was diagnosed with systemic sclerosis – a condition provoked by proximity to toxic chemicals but not treated or recognised by the MoD.
The rare disease of the blood vessels and immune system means her body produces collagen which binds the body tissues together, attacking and hardening her organs, skin and joints.
Katrina travelled to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago – the world’s leading treatment centre which is filled with US Army Veterans from Iraq – in October 2012.
Doctors said her condition would eventually kill – probably in around a year – unless she has the £100,000 treatment which would see her stem cells blasted with chemotherapy to reboot her immune system by tricking her body into thinking she is well.
Her family, friends and husband Martin have raised around £75,000 – but desperately need the final cash before time runs out.
She said: “It took a year before that to raise the £20,000 to get me to Chicago and have the tests in the first place, so I didn’t think it was possible to raise £100,000.
“When I came back from America I was thinking it was such a short space of time to raise a huge amount of money and I didn’t know how we were going to do it.
“I wasn’t expecting this kind of response at all, it’s overwhelming and amazing.”
She is planning to open a pop-up shop to sell her belongings to trying and reach her final goal.
“I am literally going to sell everything I own,” she added.
To donate cash, visit: www.katrinasfuture.org