A woman who refuses to use electricity because she is ‘allergic to the modern world’ was nearly killed when her shack was burned down – by a candle.

    Gillian McCarthy, 62, has lived in a ramshackle hut in the corner of a field for 20 years in a bid to live in a ‘chemically inert’ environment free from toxins.

    She lives without running water and electricity and in fear of reactions to carpets, soap and even tap water – claiming a sniff of aftershave could knock her unconscious.

    But the former biochemist is now homeless after three candles she used for warmth caused a blaze which razed the shack to the ground.

    The former biochemist says her life was saved by the call of nature after she popped to the loo when the flames took hold.

    She is now living in a ‘den’ in the woods built by her sympathetic volunteers near Wincanton, Somerset.

    Gillian said: “It was my bladder that saved me. I was heading towards the bathroom when I heard a big crash and a bang.

    “I managed to get to the fire extinguisher but then there really was a big whoosh and I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own.

    “There was only one exit and I just had to chance it.

    “My father was a fireman and without that knowledge I might not have made it out.

    “I don’t know how I’m going to manage.

    “I’ve lost all my photos, old papers, my clock, my commode, everything. I need a wheelchair really and I’ve lost that too.”

    University graduate Gillian came into contact with hundreds of chemicals when she worked as a biochemist and agricultural merchant, and believes she was poisoned.

    She was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity in 1983, a condition which she claims leaves her intolerant to substances found in modern day objects.

    Gillian spent years trying to battle the condition – which affects her vision and causes her pain – including an 18-month detox at an environmental illness unit in Hertfordshire.

    She claims she is allergic to furniture, carpets, chipboard, soap, food additives, perfume, aftershave, washing powder, chlorine and rubber.

    Speaking of her condition previously, she said: “I start sounding as if I’m drunk and my legs swell up.

    “If someone is wearing a lot of perfume, I can pick them up 100ft away. Aftershave can knock me unconscious.”

    By 1996 she claims she had spent £280,000 on private treatment, and was forced to sell her home in Wales, and move to the wooden huts in Stoney Stoke.

    The three holiday huts knocked together in the coroner of a field were supposed to be temporary, but she has been there ever since.

    But the sheds were completely destroyed by a blaze on Friday (8) night.

    She managed to clamber up the lane away from the inferno to wait for help.

    Three fire crews fought the flames for three hours after being called by occupants of a nearby farm shortly after 10.30pm.

    Ms McCarthy believes three candles she used for warmth and to heat water were the cause of the blaze.

    She is now living in a “den” built by volunteers – where she celebrated her 62nd birthday on Monday – without sanitation, a bed or a phone.

    She added that she also lost four days’ worth of water supplies and £500 worth of medication.

    Gillian says she is now in need of volunteers to help her salvage belongings from the wreckage and to build a barrier to protect her den.

    She added: “People have been so kind already and I’ve had new walking sticks fashioned for me.”

    But her friend, Barbara Simmons, warned volunteers not to wear perfumes or aftershaves which might harm Ms McCarthy.

    Anyone who wants to help can contact charity MCS Aware, at nicky@mcs-aware.org.


      • Show Comments (0)

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

      comment *

      • name *

      • email *

      • website *

      This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


      You May Also Like

      Pregnant women with whose blood pressure is even slightly raised can be dramatically more at risk of developing diabetes or heart disease, say scientists. In the first study of its kind a condition called pre-hypertension - where blood pressure is in the upper range of normal - has been shown to be potentially dangerous. Up to one-in-seven expectant mothers in the UK already suffer high blood pressure and the discovery could lead to many more requiring monitoring. Professor Jian-Min Niu, of Guangdong Women and Children Hospital in China, said: "Our findings underscore an important issue that has been long ignored in clinical practice - the fact criteria for hypertension in pregnancy are derived from the general population. "We anticipate if reaffirmed in further research, our study could spark a change in what we currently deem healthy blood pressure in pregnant women." The research found pregnant women whose blood pressure is in the upper ranges of normal could be at high risk of developing metabolic syndrome - a combination of diabetes, hypertension and obesity - and heart disease risk after giving birth. Current guidelines do not distinguish between pregnant women and the general population and define hypertension as persistently elevated blood pressure that is 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) systolic or 90 mm Hg diastolic and above. Readings of 120-139 mm Hg systolic over 80-89 mm Hg diastolic is deemed 'pre-hypertension' - a warning sign of high blood pressure in the future. But the study published in Hypertension said pregnant women with blood pressure in this range had 6.5 times greater odds of developing metabolic syndrome compared to those in the lower normal range. It looked at 507 Chinese women with uncomplicated pregnancies, no history of hypertension and normal blood sugar and cholesterol who underwent seven or more blood pressure measurements along with other standard tests including weight measurements and foetal ultrasounds. Blood sugar and cholesterol levels were also tested at the start, shortly before and after giving birth and once every few months for up to 1.6 years after giving birth. The participants were grouped into three categories including those whose blood pressure remained on the lower end of normal (34%), around the mid-point (52%) or in the pre-hypertension range (13%). A series of snapshot measurements did not predict future risk but patterns of repeated elevations did - highlighting the dynamic nature of blood pressure during pregnancy. The results support the idea of pregnancy as a cardiovascular stress test for women that can reveal underlying disturbances in blood pressure regulation, glucose and cholesterol metabolism. Abnormalities in all three areas can disrupt functions and lead to full-blown cardiovascular disease years down the road. Prof Niu said globally the burden of cardio-metabolic diseases in women has been rising steadily over the last decades. He said: "Blood pressure measurements are already done as matter of routine and cost-effective checkups during pregnancy so our findings underscore this tool's potential to gauge a woman's post-partum cardiovascular risk. "Early identification of metabolic risk factors and implementation of lifestyle modifications may help delay the onset of cardiovascular disease that would present itself 20 to 30 years after delivery."


      Scotland is only carrying out a fraction of the gastric band operations it should ...



      A chubby cabbie has shed a whopping nine stone in as many months after ...



      An air rage victim who was bitten by a drunken passenger had to give ...