MEET the woman who lives off pancakes due to a rare condition which leaves her at risk of choking every time she eats.
Leanne Yewer suffers from Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (RDEB) which leaves her throat covered in painful blisters and can close at any time causing her to stop breathing.
The 28-year-old from Boscombe has endured five life-saving operations where doctors use a balloon to stretch her throat after she has choked multiple times.
But her condition, which means her skin tears and blisters at the slightest knock or scratch, has left Leanne so terrified of food that her diet is mainly pancakes.
She said: “I live off them because they are easy to make and when my blister is inflamed, it’s the only food I can still eat. They are soft and help me keep weight on.
“I’m terrified of eating most things. I’ve choked on chicken and on Doritos but even my own saliva has caused me to choke before.
"My biggest fear is getting something lodged and not being able to move it.
“I feel safe eating pancakes because I’ve never had a problem with them.”
Leanne was diagnosed with RDEB when she was a baby after being born with no skin on her right foot where a blister had burst.
By the time she was three, Leanne’s throat was so sore she couldn’t drink or swallow her own saliva at times without gasping for breath and choking.
Leanne, who also suffers from asthma, said: “When I was 16 I choked on Doritos at school. It sliced the inside of my throat. I went to bed but woke up in the night in absolute agony. I was in floods of tears. My throat had closed up and I still have that blister today. When the blister bursts, it's like having a razor in my throat.
"Another time I choked on a piece of chicken. I couldn't see or breathe, it was terrifying. I thought that was it.
"Since then I've been frightened of most food."
Leanne’s condition means she has struggled to keep weight on.
At the moment she is 7st 6lb but has previously weighed as little as 6st 4lb.
“I get very tired and weak a lot quicker than anyone else if I’m unable to eat enough. "When the blisters are inflamed I may not eat for a few weeks. That’s why pancakes are a God send. Other things I can slide down are spaghetti, yoghurts and lollies are good because it numbs it.
"I'm so used to choking that even though it looks bad to everyone else, I have exercises to stop it but things like going out for a meal with my boyfriend are out of the question.
"I also get blisters on my tongue and every time I move my tongue, the blisters open up again so I may not be able talk for days."
Today, Leanne says though her blisters are getting worse in her mouth and throat, procedures to have her throat dilated have helped her eat.
“The first one was an emergency operation when my throat just went. Doctors insert a tiny tube down my throat and slowly blow up a balloon, as they remove the balloon it stretches my throat.
"Operations usually last around 45 minutes, but they have taken up to three hours as my throats so narrow they've found it difficult to insert the tube due to the amount of blisters.
"They have said when they have seen how narrow my throat is, they don't know how I've eaten but it is helping."
The condition, which has no cure, also affects Leanne’s skin and she gets blisters all over her body.
Leanne, whose feet are scarred, said: “RDEB controls my life. Sometimes I wake up in the night and where I’ve scratched my skin, I have blood everywhere but my biggest fear is one day I won't be able to breathe again. I can’t work because of it but looking at me, people don’t realise something is wrong."
Leanne says her mum Tricia, long term boyfriend Simon, sister Kelly and national charity DEBRA, which helps support people suffering from all forms of EB, have saved her life.
“My family and friends have been incredibly supportive and so have the charity. Without them, I feel like I wouldn't be here today."
For more information and to support DEBRA, go to www.debra.org.uk