Extraordinary People

2013 - The Incredible Hulk Woman

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Following Helen Stephens, a mum-of-three who is believed to suffer from one of the rarest neurological conditions in the world – stiff person syndrome (SPS). Only one in a million people are diagnosed with this shocking condition, which can cause sufferers' muscles to become as stiff as a rock.

Triggered by noise, stress, extreme temperature and even food allergies, attacks see Helen stiffen up and become unable to move as her muscles turn rigid and spasm. Helen feels as though her muscles are ripping, tearing and swelling inside her body. These attacks are becoming more and more frequent and may prove fatal.

For the last decade, the bedridden 50-year-old from the West Midlands describes it as the most excruciating, unbearable pain that anyone could ever imagine. Attacks are a constant threat for Helen, who is now believed to be in the last and most life-threatening stage of the condition. One minute, she is a sharp, articulate woman commanding her 24-hour-a-day carers, and then, suddenly and without warning, her arms and legs stiffen in agonising pain and Helen becomes what even she calls The Incredible Hulk Woman.

Without a clear diagnosis, Helen cannot get the treatment she so desperately needs. Could advances in medical technology hold the answers to her crippling muscle spasms? Could a pioneering new test allow her to dream of a better future?