Tuesday, 26 Jan 2021

Teen’s years of pain dismissed as ‘stress’ migraines before brain tumour burst

A teen spent years complaining of intense head pain which doctors dismissed as migraines – before a tumour in her brain burst.

For years doctors had told Amber Hannah that her suffering was migraines caused by 'stress'.

But one morning the 17-year-old woke up in horror – she found she could not move or stand up and was violently sick.

Her terrified mum knew something was seriously wrong – but little did they know what was to follow.

Medics at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital found the teen had suffered a severe haemorrhage and a brain tumour that had burst.

Amber told Be : "I woke up and I can't recall very well but I was so ill, I couldn't walk, I was being sick everywhere, I couldn't physically stand up. My mum phoned the doctor and she said there was no way she could get me there so she called an ambulance and I was taken to the RVH.

"First of all they found a haemorrhage and then they found the tumour and it had burst. I don't remember much but my mum told me when they found the tumour and they told me I asked her was I going to die? I can imagine I was very freaked out."

The North Belfast teen could never have prepared for the ordeal she then had to go through – and the horrific side effects she has been left with.

Having been rushed to hospital in February, doctors removed part of her skull to fit a drain to reduce the build-up of fluid.

She then had more surgery to inject glue into the tumour, to make it easier to go in and remove it.

Her third surgery, to remove the tumour, was two days later, on February 24.

Her severe symptoms before her tumour was discovered impacted massively on her school work and her attendance was poor as she was constantly tired.

"I couldn't go to school early and my attendance was really bad but that wasn't my fault as I didn't know what was wrong with me but in turn then my mental health was also badly affected," Amber said.

"I had been to the doctors 3-4 times per month and they just kept saying it was stress and migraines."

Amber paid tribute to the surgeons who operated on her saying they saved her life.

She said: "My surgeons were incredible, one was called Peter and another called Sinead, I don't recall their surnames and then I had another surgeon Mano Shanmuganathan.

"If it wasn't for those surgeons, I wouldn't be here so I'm so grateful to them."

Following her operation, Amber has developed epilepsy.

The other after-effects of surgery included a completely numb left arm and weakness in the left side of her body but she continues to recover well.

She hopes to return to her studies and study history and politics and says her mental health has also improved.

Amber said: "I haven’t gone back to school yet. I managed to sit some of my GCSE exams in the summer but I didn’t get the grades I should have got.

"I would love to go to further education college to study history and politics.

"Originally, I wanted to go into medicine but I get freaked out by needles and blood, even though I’ve had to become less squeamish after everything I’ve been through.

"My mental health is so much better than it was before my diagnosis and my physical health continues to improve.

"The positive side of having emergency surgery was that I didn’t have time to get anxious about the operation – it just happened!

"Above all, my family and I are just so relieved they found it and that it was treatable and I no longer suffer from the debilitating migraines I used to endure.”

The teenager is now on a mission to raise awareness for the Brain Tumour Research charity and is urging people to make a difference by signing a petition to increase the national investment into brain tumour research to £35 million a year, which would bring parity of funding with other cancers such as leukaemia, breast and prostate.

Amber added: "When I heard that brain tumours were the biggest cancer killer of people under 40 I was so shocked, before I had a brain tumour I had never heard of any real funding or research for it so that's why it's so important to get behind this petition."

She added: "I want to use my experience as a force for good. I am so lucky that my tumour was treatable and that I have a bright future ahead of me. Sadly, that isn’t the case for so many other brain tumour patients and that needs to change."

You can sign the petition here.

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