Greens policy on ME/CFS

The Australian Greens have launched a policy on the debilitating neurological disease myalgic encephalomyelitis, a type of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome known in Australia as ME/CFS. Senator Jordan Steele-John has campaigned passionately for patients with ME since coming to parliament in 2017. This is the first ever political policy to be released on ME/CFS and is well timed with a Federal election due in May.

The Senator was kind enough to call me today to discuss the new policy. After years of campaigning with the hashtag #millionsmissing from their normal lives, the Senator explained this policy was an important way to show the patient community that they were no longer invisible. “When the evidence shows that a disease like this is real, it doesn’t mean that people automatically stop experiencing stigma.” He went on to say this policy was designed to show that it was not just his words that the Greens had to offer ME/CFS patients, but the whole Green movement now had a plan for action to help make their lives better.

The Greens’ policy has four parts. The first is to increase funding for biomedical research to $15 million dollars that would be administered by the National Health and Medical Research Council. This would allow funding for a range of innovative work being done across Australia by a range of different organisations. It would be enough to cover the gap in funding to scale up the sample size of calcium ion channel research being undertaken by the National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases, as well as a range of other significant biomedical research projects. Since the release of the Greens’ policy, the Coalition Government has announced $3 million dollars in ME/CFS research funding.

Secondly, they propose a national ME/CFS summit to bring together patient advocates, biomedical researchers, clinicians, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), Department of Human Services, and Department of Social Services. Such an event could be facilitated in such a way that it would catalyse policy alignment between all these groups, with a particular focus on government departments, service providers and medical practitioners. At present, the discrepancies between current research, medical practice, the NDIA and other government departments pose a significant barrier to the health and wellbeing of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who suffer from ME/CFS.

In many cases, patient advocacy groups have been the only source of support and guidance through these frought bureaucratic processes that combine to discriminate against people with ME/CFS. These groups have run on the smell of an oily rag for decades but take a leading role in coordinating communication and advocacy to improve the standard of care for ME/CFS patients. Funding and support of these groups is the third component of the Greens’ policy and it is long overdue.

The fourth component of the policy is a promise to provide participant pathways for people with ME/CFS to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS was established with the explicit purpose of supporting Australians with disabilities to access social, economic and community life. Senator Steele-John was infuriated by the revelations that the NDIS had vastly underspent this financial year, but was still failing so many Australians in need of support.

There are a range of reasons given to the scores of people with ME/CFS who are rejected from the scheme. Some reasons relate to outdated research that suggested Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Graduated Exercise Therapy would make them better; making them ineligible under the criteria of ‘permanence’. Others find themselves caught up in the stigma and misconception of medical professionals who misdiagnose them with Conversion Disorder or Somatic Symptom Disorder. If all the symptoms experienced by a person with ME/CFS are described in either the International Consensus Primer or the Canadian Consensus Criteria, then they will not meet the criteria for Conversion. But approximately 80% of people with ME/CFS are women, who for centuries have had their physical symptoms disregarded as mental illness. In addition to advocacy efforts to have ME/CFS added to List B of the NDIS, Senator Steele-John spoke about aims to continue working with his colleague Senator Rachel Siewert to reform the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to improve its fairness and reasonableness in NDIS appeals. He also spoke about the relationship between the AAT and abusive behaviour towards people with ME/CFS, which may mean it falls in the remit of the Royal Commission into violence and abuse of people with disabilities, the terms of reference for which are due to be finalised before the election.

Senator Steele-John’s efforts to support the ME/CFS community are commendable. It is a source of great hope that he has been able to expand on the good work undertaken by his predecessor Senator Ludlam and bring his entire party on board to work for the improvement of the lives of people living with this debilitating commission. He is facing a tough re-election campaign, facing off against candidates from the One Nation party. We can only hope that the good people of Western Australia get out to support his campaign and vote him back into the Senate in May so he can continue his invaluable work for Australians with disabilities, including those living with ME/CFS.

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Pass the snuff and loosen the corsets – they’re back to researching hysteria

Professor Andrew Lloyd is the only advisor to the National Disability Insurance Agency regarding the debilitating neurological disease Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a type of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). A poster for a study being undertaken by his ‘Fatigue Clinic’ at the University of New South Wales asks the sexist question “are women with CFS ovary-reacting?”

ME/CFS is a life altering disease that affects not just the nervous system, but the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and other systems in the body. Up to 240,000 Australians have ME/CFS. It is estimated that a quarter of those are bed or house bound. Others may be able to work but all will have severely affected quality of life. There is currently no known cause or cure for the disease.

Across the country thousands of people with this disease are being refused access to much needed supports through the NDIS, and many more refused access to the Disability Support Pension. These policy decisions are a direct result of Prof Lloyd’s outdated recommendations for patients to undergo Graded Exercise Therapy and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy as curative treatments, or methods of reducing the symptoms of their disease.

However, Graded Exercise Therapy has been shown to be unsafe for people with ME/CFS. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a psychological treatment that was first recommended before biological evidence of the disease was discovered. While a very small number of patients has improved with Graded Exercise Therapy, neither treatment has been shown to be statistically effective treatments for the disease defined by the leading international criteria.

ME/CFS effects four times as many women as men. This ratio is the same as autoimmune diseases. The disease has a history (and, all too often, current reality) of sufferers not being believed, misdiagnoses, conflation with psychosomatic diseases and mental illness, and labelling with terms such as hysteria.

Historically, hysteria was a diagnosis given exclusively to women originally described as having wandering wombs, but later to describe high levels of sexual desire, emotional outbursts or nervousness. Not only is hysteria not an actual disease, it’s history as a label men placed on women for exhibiting natural behaviour makes it a touchy subject for modern women who’s health concerns have been disbelieved or downplayed. Even in modern times, the term hysteric is used to describe overly emotional people.

While the relationship between patients menstrual cycle and the severity of their symptoms is an under-researched area, it would be incredibly problematic if the sentiment in the title of the poster for this project permeated the research design. There is a huge amount of poorly designed, unethical, and poorly executed research on this disease and a dire need for high quality biological research. It would be terrible if the University of New South Wales was spending scarce research funding to rekindle outdated views of women’s health.

Research poster at UNSW ‘Fatigue Clinic’

Nadia Murad: small town girl, reluctant hero, Nobel Laureate

Over the years, the Nobel Peace Prize has chosen some doozy candidates, but it remains one of the world’s most preeminent honours. Last weekend, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced this year’s award would be shared by Nadia Murad and Dr Denis Mukwege. Both these people have fought for years to end sexual violence in armed conflict.

Nadia Murad grew up in a small town in northern Iraq. She dreamed of becoming a teacher or a beautician. But in 2014, her life was torn apart when ISIS forces swept through her village in an effort to kill the men in her community, enslave the women and girls, and convert the boys. Nadia is a member of a small religious and ethnic community. Although they believe in one heavenly God, ISIS believe they are devil worshippers. That day, Nadia was kidnapped, trafficked to Mosul and sold into sexual slavery. She was beaten and brutally gang raped for a month before finally escaping.

As in so many communities, Nadia and women like her who were so brutally assaulted feared the shame of their community. But she bravely stood up and told her story. What happened to Nadia was not her fault. The only person to blame for rape is the rapist. But what Nadia experienced was not just rape, it was part of a campaign to eradicate her community. It was genocide.

As difficult as it can be for survivors to tell their stories, Nadia sat before the United Nations Security Council and told the world what had happened to her. She told them of the pain and suffering she experienced at the hands of ISIS. She told them what they’d done to her whole community.

Since then, she has continued to campaign for justice. She feels her survival obliged her to fight for the rights of persecuted minorities and victims of sexual violence. In a statement after the Nobel announcement, she reiterated that she wanted to see perpetrators of sexual violence in a courtroom, not executed.

But in many ways, she is still beholden to the experience forced upon her. She is still a relatively ordinary young women, wanting to train to be a beautician; but is thrust into the spotlight because of her bravery, and the heinous acts of men from around the world.

After the announcement was made, in a nod to the #metoo movement and the topical Kavanaugh hearings, Nadia said “my hope is that all women who speak about their experience of sexual violence are heard and accepted.”

Nadia Murad at the National Press Club in Washington DC

Nadia is currently working to help rebuild villages that were destroyed in the battle with ISIS. Villages were burned to the ground, there is no medicine or food, and no crops in fields. While the Nobel Prize money, her share will be about half a million US dollars, will be very much appreciated, it won’t go far in the face of such great need. She explained that it costs about $US 20-30,000 to buy back a Yazidi sex slave and estimated there are about 3000 women and girls still held in captivity.

She has now called “on governments to join me in fighting genocide and sexual violence.” The Australian parliament has committed to investigate and prosecute these crimes, but so far has not acted to do so. To do so, they would need to establish and fund a dedicated team to investigate and prosecute our nationals who perpetrated these crimes as well as gather testimony from Yazidis who now call Australia home.

“A single prize and a single person cannot accomplish these goals. We need an international effort.” If all governments undertook such efforts, then, perhaps Nadia will have the prize she truly seeks, justice for her and her community, and a serious step toward ending impunity for conflict related sexual violence.

 

If you’d like to help Nadia’s cause, you can donate to Nadia’s Initiative via squarespace at https://nadiasinitiative.org/donate/

Ford v Kavanaugh

The following is a guest blog post from my friend and human rights campaigner, Daniel Yeow

Yesterday’s hearings have never been a clearer message that women’s opinions are worth less than men’s. Ford’s memory was continually questioned, while Kavanaugh’s was not. His belligerence was never called out. Her character was constantly attacked.

A thorough FBI investigation would have, while time-consuming, resolved this in a manner respectful of the truth. The choice by the GOP to turn this into political theatre has turned it into an extremely undignified race to the bottom. What little chance remained that Kavanaugh could credibly claim to be an appropriate candidate for the supreme court has now vanished.

They accuse her of politically motivated false accusations, when statistically it is more likely for a man to be sexually assaulted than to be falsely accused of it. Rushing the confirmation of the candidate, after yesterday’s farce, proves that it is in fact the republicans who are acting out of political motivation – putting party and ideology ahead of country and due process.

Pragmatically, the judiciary committee is pushing to vote to recommend the candidate, which will probably happen. Then the senate has to confirm.

What the GOP needs to realise is that, even though they can ‘win’ with their 51-49 majority, yesterday’s political theatre, paired with Trump’s low approval ratings mean that putting Kavanaugh on the supreme court could spell long-term electoral disaster (and in the short-term, even the possibility for a filibuster-proof 2/3 majority for democrats). Confirming the candidate would be the end of the political careers of many GOP senators. On the other hand, crossing the aisle and voting against the party will, in this insane-mobster political environment, result in similar career-ending repercussions.

So for a decent number of senate republicans, they have to make a decision on what will likely be the last thing they do in their political careers. I can’t predict what they will do, but I hope they at least have a conscience which includes women as equals, despite the strong messaging from others in their party.

P.S. I should probably also add that I believe her and not him. Not that that matters. What people are forgetting is that this isn’t a criminal case. This is essentially a job interview. The question isn’t “did Kav try to rape?”, it is “is this guy appropriate material for the supreme court”, and he clearly isn’t.

Parliamentarians learn about ground-breaking science on debilitating neurological disease

In parliament house in Canberra yesterday, members of federal parliament took the time to listen to world renowned scientists and their ground-breaking findings that explain the debilitating disease myalgic encephalomyelitis, a type of chronic fatigue syndrome. The event focused on a presentation by Griffith University Professors Don Staines and Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik.

The turnout was particularly impressive given the leadership turmoils occupying the headlines and the minds of so many people working in the building. Jokes were made at the beginning and end of the event, confirming that Malcom Turnbull was still the Prime Minister.

The event was hosted by the new Parliamentary Friends of ME/CFS, founded by Greens Senator for Western Australia, Jordon Steele-John and co-chaired by Labor Senator for Queensland, Claire Moore and Liberal Senator for Tasmania Jonathon Duniam.

A range of parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, in both the House of Representatives and the Senate attended, as did policy advisors, members of the academic community, patients and advocates.

Senators Andrew Bartlett, Greens for Queensland; Slade Brockman, Liberal for Western Australia; Jonathon Duniam, Liberal for Tasmania; Jordon Steele-John, Greens for Western Australia; and Claire Moore, Labor for Queensland all attended.

From the House of Representatives, Liberal Member for Dunkley, Chris Crewther; and Labor Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann attended. Up to a dozen policy advisors attended from a range of parliamentary officers.

Jordon Steele-John welcomed everyone to the event. Jonathon Duniam introduced the speakers. Don Staines began Griffith’s presentation with some poignant insights into why their research mattered. “It is an honour to present to the representatives of the people, our novel scientific findings” he said. ME/CFS is “a very silent illness, because people are often unable to represent their needs”.

In unpacking the approach of the National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases, he explained that “the existing science is not yet up to it.” “Patients have experienced extreme stigma and discrimination associated with the lack of known biology”. The aim of the centre’s work was to reduce this stigma by demonstrating the biology of the disease, developing a diagnostic test and identifying therapeutic drugs to manage the disease. He spoke plainly and eloquently for all to understand the gravity of what he was saying.

Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik went through a summary of all the research they have done in three years, explaining what and how they have come to understand the pathology of the disease.

First, they identified a family of genes significantly associated with the disease. Then, they tested these genes, the family of TRPM3 markers, for changes in expression between healthy controls and patients with ME. This gene is found in cells in the central nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, immune and excretory and other systems in the body. In this way, they came to understand how so many systems in the body are affected by the disease.

What they found was that the cells containing TRPM3 showed a reduced capacity for the transfer of calcium ions between and within the cells. Calcium ions are vital to cellular energy transfer and proper cell function.

By using gold standard technological processes, they measured the amount of calcium that is stored by and circulated in particular cells. Again, in ME patients, these rates were significantly lower than in healthy controls. This science would explain why many patients describe their experiences as like running on a faulty cellphone battery that doesn’t charge properly and never fully recharges.

TRPM3 are threat receptors. They are triggered by infections (bacterial or viral), perfumes or other chemicals, cell stretching or stress, temperature variation and a range of other factors. This not only explains some of the onset factors for ME, but also some of the triggers patients experience after contracting the disease.

Don Staines explained that, given these findings, we could see that “recommendations to exercise patients are wrong” because it only places greater demand for calcium ions in the cells. This also explains why patients who meet the diagnostic criteria defined in the Canadian Consensus Criteria or the International Consensus Primer would in fact be worsened by a regime of Graduated Exercise Therapy. While patients who experienced the symptom of chronic fatigue without meeting these criteria may experience some improvement.

As for recommendations to treat patients with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik said she was “not aware of any psychological treatment that can effect calcium ion transmitters”.

Attendees were keen to know what policy makers could do to help researchers and patients. The sample sizes of the studies undertaking so far were about 200 people. To allow all Australian patients to contribute to the study (and vastly increase the value of the science by increasing the sample size), the centre will need $13 million. So far, they have raised half of this money through philanthropic donations. They asked the parliamentarians to support federal government funding for the remaining $6.5 million.

Recommendations also came to ensure government policies and guidelines are updated to account for this research, helping reduce the personal, financial and social burden of the disease on patients. While no specific mention was made of the National Disability Insurance Scheme or Disability Support Pension, ongoing discussions will address some of these issues. There was, however, an explicit call to remove GET and CBT recommendations from policies including guidelines of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

While Don and Sonya were loathe to provide timelines on their advances for diagnostic testing and therapeutic drugs, they explained they were working with a leading Australian pathology service provider with a timeline of three years for both projects.

At the end of proceedings Claire Moore closed the event with a call to action for policy makers while paying tribute to the good work that Scott Ludlum had done in this space. Significant networking between parliamentarians, policy advisors, other researchers and patients occurred before everyone dispersed. Overall, it was an incredibly worthwhile event and impressively successful, especially given the amount of attention being diverted for leadership contentions within the government.

Aussie hands and arms in the war on Yemen

I do love #TheFrant. Last week Jan Fran did a great explainer of the horrific crisis in Yemen, including Australia’s involvement.

The crisis in Yemen was catalysed by military operations of a Saudi led coalition involving the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan and seven other countries. Over 20 000 have died in the war which has led to the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.

Two thirds of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance. Seven million people don’t know where their next meal is coming from and one child under the age of 5 dies every 10 minutes of preventable causes.

But Australia has both hands and arms in the crisis.

Former special forces hand retired Major General Mike Hindmarsh is now the head of the UAE’s army unit providing troops in Yemen. Earlier this month, reports surfaced that these troops have been using physical, psychological and sexual torture against Yemeni detainees in prisons across the country.

Since the beginning of the war in Yemen, Australia’s defence exports to countries in the Saudi led coalition has vastly increased. The Australian government has granted 16 licences to export defence goods to Saudi Arabia and potentially 33 licences for defence exports to the UAE.

They have also authorised exports of small arms, armoured vehicles and battleships to Oman and Jordan. A Tasmanian designed and built catamaran was damaged in the conflict while supplying UAE troops in Yemen.

We know that during this period, there has been a multi-billion dollar spike, almost a doubling, in the total value of Australia’s defence exports.

But what the government is refusing tell us is what exactly, has been authorised for sale to Saudi Arabia. Is it rockets, other munitions, military vehicles, or something else entirely, military chemicals perhaps?

When South Australian Senator Alex Gallacher asked the government what type of goods have been authorised for export to Saudi Arabia since April 2016, Defence refused to provide in that most basic of information.

In Freedom of Information requests, both Defence, who are responsible for authorising defence exports; and Home Affairs, who keep records of what is actually exported, hide behind commercial confidentiality.

Kellie Tranter, lawyer and human rights activist, questions how the government could legitimately claim this information needs to be commercial in confidence. “The information sought is now purely historical data and not specific to any individual supplier, so it is hard to see how any player in the market could claim to be adversely affected by its disclosure.”

The lack of transparency and accountability is unacceptable. It also contravenes the intent of the Arms Trade Treaty which Foreign Minister Julie Bishop so championed and ratified in 2014. At the time, she said even small numbers of illicit weapons can be incredibly destabilising.

Under the treaty, the government must assess proposed exports and refuse an export licence when the goods are likely to be used in serious breaches of human rights.

Transparency and human rights go to the very core of the treaty and countries are expected to provide annual reports on implementation. But there are concerning holes in the content of Australia’s reports.

At the moment, Defence is undertaking an independent review of the legislation governing defence exports. But it is unknown if the report will discuss the governance issues and requirements to meet our human rights obligations.

Under the government’s new policy to increase defence exports, the situation is looking even worse. The government are investing billions of dollars into the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) to facilitate arms deals with the very countries that have the most woeful human rights records. Recent reports indicate that they too will be immune from public scrutiny.

If the existing government processes for defence exports have allowed such authorisations, the system is fundamentally flawed. The government cannot justify exporting arms to countries responsible for the horrendous situation in Yemen. The parliament urgently needs to undertake a review of Australian defence exports, in line with our obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty.

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If you would like to take action on this issue, Amnesty International Australia has a petition calling on the government to stop allowing defence exports to countries fighting in Yemen. Visit their website to sign now.

I was hit by a car

Yes, I was hit by a car; a white courier van to be precise. Of all the things I’ve imagined in my life, this was not one of them. It happened two weeks ago to the day. I was crossing Northbourne Ave, Canberra’s main northern arterial, at an intersection beset by roadworks and temporary alterations. I saw the car about to hit me, then it hit me and I was on the road on my back in extreme pain.

Luckily for me, my mobility scooter seems to have acted as a crumple zone, being the most significant thing to break in the crash. I remember being very distressed as I lay there on the road: worried about that mobility scooter that had been kindly donated to me because the NDIS had refused my application for assistance; the driver of the van because I imagined he’d have seen me right up in his windscreen and I thought that would have been terribly traumatic; and the bottle of shampoo I’d just bought with the last of the money in my bank account because I was due to be interviewed the next day and I didn’t want to have greasy hair.

There were so many people at the scene. One lovely lady who’d been waiting in her car when I was hit was a nurse, she pulled a blanket from her car and stayed by my side, making sure I didn’t pass out. I held her hand so tight I think she may have been in pain herself. When I explained how my disability made me incredibly sensitive to sound, the fireman on the scene gave me their (amazing) earmuffs to block out the cacophony. The ambulance arrived in quick time, took good care of me and rushed me to hospital.

I was incredibly impressed by the trauma team at the Canberra hospital who listened to me, and changed their regular routine in response to my sensory sensitivity. I was scanned and x-rayed quick smart, each of my damaged extremities imaged and assessed. Lucy, the trauma nurse, looked after me incredibly well. The whole team made me feel safe, secure and calm, despite the crazy situation. When I asked, for sentimental reasons, if they could not cut off the t-shirt I was wearing, they didn’t even bat an eye. I thought that showed great kindness. I told them it was a shirt I bought when I travelled Africa with one of my high school girlfriends, when my life was better. We did, however, cut off my bra.

‘The T-shirt’ from better days, as seen on my birthday in our friends’ village in Uganda

The only bone that was broken was my right thumb, but everything hurt and the only limb that worked properly was my left arm. I am right handed. While I guessed getting hit by a car would hurt, after a week when my legs still didn’t work and the pain in my thighs woke me screaming in the night, I started to wonder what exactly was wrong in my body. Bones aren’t the only things that can break in the body, but I hadn’t realised the ‘soft tissue’ in my thighs had such depth that it could be the source of such deep pain! A few days later, I thought the pain must surely start to dissipate, but it just kept evolving like some cruel sorcerer.

I suffer from a debilitating condition called ME/CFS. I am sensitive to sound, cognitive overload and too much physical activity. Each of these triggers leaves me unable to walk, talk and even think. I wear noise cancelling headphones to help manage that sensory input, but construction sounds set off an acute physical reaction in my body; reducing my capacity to absorb information and make decisions. That day, riding my scooter down the footpath beside Northbourne Ave, I had passed an angle grinder, a concrete saw and an electric edge trimmer. I knew my body wasn’t functioning well. I had traversed many detours and intersections altered by roadworks. When I approached the intersection at which I needed to cross, I was confused by where I was supposed to cross and where the lights were. I observed the traffic: saw two lanes of stationary cars and the third lane was empty. When a pedestrian crossed ahead of me, I crossed the intersection.

 

I was barely a meter out from the island when I saw the white van was about to hit me. Then it hit me. If the van’s windscreen/bonnet formed an angle like 1 o’clock, I remember hitting it at midday till about 10 o’clock. That time frame is the scene that ran in instant replay in my dreams in the following weeks. I don’t remember much more from that 10 o’clock till I was on the road, I wonder if I bounced, before landing on my back with my knees up. The driver ran out. I remember he asked if I was OK and somehow, possibly sarcastically, I said ‘NO! Call an ambulance!’ he started telling everyone he’d been driving at 60km/h.

Later, I looked up the stats. People who are hit at 60km/h have an eighty five percent chance of dying. I only broke my thumb. Don’t get me wrong, my pain and suffering have been intense. But I also feel incredibly lucky. Wonderful friends, family, feminists and colleagues have all be generous in the support they have shown. A complete stranger even cut my hair in my hospital room so I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to keep the birds nests out of it and wash it when my body was so pained.

But I had diminished capacity when I crossed that intersection and the investigators have recorded the accident as my fault. So I will not be able to claim the government insurance scheme designed to cover pedestrians and other third parties in road accidents. My mobility scooter was donated to me by a small businessman when the one I inherited was flooded earlier in the year. My noise cancelling headphones were destroyed. I have no money and no insurance. In addition to needing to heal from the crash, spending weeks in hospital, and then post hospital treatment (for which I cannot pay), I have lost the key tools that help me exist in the world, exist with a disability and still participate and contribute to society.

I need help to recover. An old friend of mine has started a gofundme page to help get me back on my feet, so to speak. That scooter was worth $6000, new headphones cost $400. Post-hospital osteopathy will cost an average of $140 per session (per week). I need to move out of my third floor flat into a ground floor place with disability access and have no money for removalists or the standard ‘deep clean.’ The gofundme page aims to raise $10000. Please help, donate if you can and spread the word.