Manic Street Preachers help fund surgery for Cambridge musician who could lose her arm
A Cambridge musician has received a donation from her favourite band, the Manic Street Preachers, to help pay for corrective surgery.
Ali Hirsz, singer and bass player with the indie trio Idealistics, urgently needs the operation after the nerve to her trapezius muscle was severed during a previous procedure, causing it to waste away.
The 20-year-old, who lives in Caxton, suffers from an incurable connective tissue disorder called arthrochalasia Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (aEDS). Due to a vascular compression on her small intestine, she has to be fed via a tube, having been unable to take food for two years.
With Covid-19 having stopped the band from earning an income, Ali - whose condition also means she can no longer play bass - turned to her fans for help in raising money for the surgery, which is not available on the NHS.
She set up a GoFundMe page with the initial aim of raising £1,000, posting a link on Twitter with the words: “I really don’t want to have to ask for donations but I am very desperate.”
Having never asked for money before, Ali reached £1,000 in just 24 hours - £500 from well-wishers and £500 from Welsh indie rockers Manic Street Preachers: James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore.
“I’m really shocked at how much everything has changed literally since Friday,” she tells the Cambridge Independent, adding: “The Manic Street Preachers have seriously helped; lots of people have started donating just because they did - and that is a massive help for me.
“I only put it at £1,000 because I didn’t know how much I was going to be able to raise and I didn’t have the exact costing. Then I spoke to my surgeon and he said we were looking at more like £5,000. I was thinking that that was unrealistic, but we hit the £1,000 mark so quickly and we're at about £3,300 now - which is absolutely incredible.”
Ali hopes to have the surgery in London at the end of November or beginning of December.
“My joints dislocate all the time - I’ve got so many vascular conditions, and I’ve got lots of surrounding conditions, because you get secondary problems,” she said.
During neck surgery two years ago, the surgeon accidentally severed the nerve leading to Ali’s trapezius muscle - the muscle that goes from the neck to the shoulder.
“Without the nerve, it just wasted away eventually,” says Ali, “and unfortunately none of the other doctors detected that until it was already too late and the muscle was gone and the nerve was beyond repair.”
If Ali doesn’t have the operation - which will involve stretching her existing shoulder muscles to try and replicate the trapezius - soon, she could end up losing her arm, which she can no longer feel due to lack of blood supply.
“I spoke to him before and none of the surgery options looked very appealing,” says Ali, “so we chose not to intervene surgically. Unfortunately now we don’t have much choice. Both aspects of this surgery have been performed before, but they’ve never been done together - and they’ve never done it on someone with my condition, so we’re just hoping it will all go well.”
Unfortunately, the very active and sporty Ali has had to stop playing her beloved bass guitar and give up her ‘day job’ as a horse trainer, having initially had to stop work at the start of lockdown in order to shield. She hopes to go back to both soon.
“I put down my bass at the beginning of lockdown,” she says. “I played a couple of live gigs before lockdown, but I was really struggling - I had to have a special strap and I had to take lots of breaks, which wasn’t the best.”
Idealistics, who got together around four and a half years ago, consist of Ali, singer and guitarist George Gillott - who is also Ali's partner - and her sister, Dom, on drums. Ali has been playing bass for almost six years, and one of the acts that most inspired her was Manic Street Preachers.
“I learnt all the Manics’ songs before I learnt anything else,” reveals Ali. “My goal when I first started learning to play bass was to play Archives of Pain, off [1994 album] The Holy Bible, which has an incredible bassline.”
Ali also met George on a Manic Street Preachers online forum and says that they’re the reason why she and George formed Idealistics. She even once did an impromptu duet with James Dean Bradfield on stage at an intimate acoustic gig in Newbridge in South Wales.
“They’ve really been a very big aspect of our lives so it was incredible when they donated and supported us,” says Ali.
“I was in tears, I was just so overwhelmed - it was so lovely of them to have done that. I think they probably think it wasn’t that big a deal, but it’s changed everything. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done.”
To donate, visit Ali's fundraising page.
For more on the band, facebook.com/idealisticsband.