Soul Sisters raising awareness of brain aneurysms
Michelle Williams and Lisa Slaymaker, set up Soul Sisters in a bid to encourage politicians to back a national awareness day for those suffering with and affected by brain aneurysms, were invited to talk to
They are urging the Government to support a national Brain Aneurysm Day, and are currently travelling the country visiting all 81 gold post boxes from the hometowns of the 2012 Olympian gold medallists.
Their story has been closely followed by the media, and the girls have even discussed their crusade with famed personality Debbie McGee on her BBC Radio Berkshire show on Sunday morning. Debbie, the famous assistant and wife to the late magician Paul Daniels, hoped to help raise awareness for the campaign after Paul died quickly after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Michelle and Lisa are currently have two days left to complete their golden post-box challenge, which will see the pair visit every letterbox dedicated to a gold medal winning athlete from London’s 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, and send a postcard calling for the Prime Minister to support a national Brain Aneurysm Day.
Debbie said on her show: “It’s a great idea this to get your word out there. What’s wonderful, so often out of sad stories, some good can come out of a sad situation. It’s a good feeling to hopefully help other people.”
Afterwards Michelle said: “It’s very easy for people to turn a blind eye and to think that nothing like this can ever happen to them, or somebody they love, as I once did, but trust me it can.
“This awareness campaign that I have taken on is a huge challenge to me in my current stage of recovery. Despite my positivity, I am racked with internalised fear that my coiling may fail and I may be at risk of another rupture, or that further aneurysms may form in the future. But my biggest fear, among all others is that one of my children or their offspring may be inflicted with this condition at some stage in their life, as statistics show that it can be genetic.”
Lives can be saved if people know the risks.
- Ruptured Brain Aneurysms are fatal in about 40% of cases.
- Of those who survive, about 66% suffer some permanent neurological deficit.
- Subarachnoid Haemorrhage account for around 1 in 20 of all strokes.
- Approximately 15% of patients with Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Haemorrhage die before reaching the hospital.
- 4 out of 7 people who recover from a Ruptured Brain Aneurysm will have disabilities or neurological deficits.
- There are almost 500,000 deaths worldwide each year caused by brain aneurysms and half the victims are younger than 50.
Lisa: “In June 2012 my Mum was suddenly struck down and died from a ruptured Brain Aneurysm.”
Michelle: “In January 2016 I was suddenly struck down by a ruptured Brain Aneurysm. Luckily I received the life-saving surgery in time at Southampton General Hosptial. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
The 27 January 2016 was a day like any other; I had spent the day at home working on my laptop. I felt perfectly fine all day, with no warning signs, symptoms or anything.
I do remember, looking at myself in the mirror earlier that day and thinking how tired I looked. My right eyelid seemed to have drooped, but I put it down to having too many late nights working and shrugged it off.
Then about 6.30pm, I started to feel a little lightheaded. I decided I had been working too long and was starting to feel hungry, so I got up to make dinner.
I went into the Kitchen and put on the Kettle for a cup of tea, then, BANG out of nowhere it felt like somebody had whacked me over the back of the head with a baseball bat. The pain started at the back of my head and then seemed to move forwards surrounding my whole brain. It was the most excruciating headache, the worst pain I had ever felt in my life and instantly I felt that something bad had happened.
Instantly, I began to feel nauseas and I had the sensation of my ears beginning to fill with pressure, similar to the feeling you sometimes get on an aeroplane.
Immediately, had the feeling that I was about to pass out. I managed to move from my Kitchen to my stairs, where I sat for a moment, as I felt everything go black for a short moment.
The feeling in my ears and the feeling of blacking out passed, but the headache was so intense and excruciating painful that I felt I needed to lie down. I grabbed a bucket and some Paracetamols and headed up to my bedroom.
I took the paracetamols, hoping that the severe headache would go. I lay there for about 10 minutes, preying for the pain to stop. 10 minutes later an even worse head pain came from nowhere. It was the most intense, excruciating pain that I had ever felt. It was so sharp and agonisingly painful, like a sledgehammer being hit at force, across the right side of my skull.
I wanted to call someone for help, but the pain was too intense. I just lay there screaming and crying in pain, whilst my Dog, Daisy, heard my calls and rushed to my side, licking my hands and my face as I cried.
After 10 minutes the feeling of the Sledgehammer piercing my skull began to ware off enough, that I felt capable of picking up the phone, to call my Mum.
I tried to explain to my Mum what was wrong, but she couldn’t understand me to begin with. I could hear the panic in her voice. I’m not sure if my speech was slurred at that stage, or if I just couldn’t make myself understood through the pain.
My mum understood that I was in a lot of pain and that I had a very severe headache. I asked her to collect my son and bring me some painkillers.
Because I was so healthy and never ill, I began to assume that the headache must be a migraine. I had never had one before, but had heard they can be bad, so despite the intensity of the pain and the initial feeling that this was something very serious, I began to reason with myself that it couldn’t be. I was too fit and healthy, it must just be a migraine.
I text my Mother in law, who had previously been a nurse and asked if she could give some migraine tablets to my Mum to bring over.
When my Mum and Dad arrived, the intensity of the headache had reduced to the point where I found it ‘manageable’, although I could still feel my head throbbing severely. I had also developed a horrible pain behind my right eye, which felt like pressure building behind my eye. It was very uncomfortable and I needed to keep my eyes closed.
My parents were both very concerned and wanted to take me immediately to the hospital, but I insisted to them that I couldn’t face getting into a car and sitting in A & E. I just wanted to go to sleep and hopefully I would feel better in the morning.
At about midnight, I insisted that the headache was now not so severe and suggested to my parents that they should go home. Reluctantly they agreed.
In the morning, my head was throbbing and every time I tried to move, or bend forward I felt a horrible pressure in my head. My neck also felt extremely stiff. My Mum rang and insisted that I must go to hospital. Again, I couldn’t bare the thought of getting into a car or sitting in A & E, so I said that I would go to the GP’s.
My mum came over and I suggested that I would walk to the GP as the ‘fresh air’ might make me feel better. I have always been a very outdoors person and getting out in the fresh air has always been my remedy for everything.
We walked to the GP’s, although I could feel my head throbbing with every step and my neck felt painfully stiff, but I kept telling myself, that it must be a migraine.
We got to the GP’s, I explained my symptoms and the description of my headache and I asked the GP if it was a migraine. She told me that the sudden onset and intensity of the headache that I had described, did not sound like a migraine at all. She suggested that I might have had a bleed on the brain.
She said she would refer me to the hospital immediately for a CT Brain Scan. I heard the words bleed on the brain and the words brain haemorrhage echoing in my head, but I reasoned with myself that the Doctor was being over cautious. I was far too healthy and I thought that a brain haemorrhage could only happen to other people. It couldn’t possibly happen to me.
I was about to discover, that I had a ticking time bomb in my brain – a brain aneurysm that had ruptured.
A Ruptured Brain aneurysm is a medical emergency. It is a life-threatening condition, which if not diagnosed and treated urgently, statistics show has a death rate of 60%.
Luckily, I am in the 40% of Brain Aneurysm survivors. I am making a good recovery. However, each Brain Aneurysm Survivors experiences are very different.
In my next blog, I will share more about my journey, my diagnosis and details of the life-Saving Neurosurgery that I received at Southampton Neurological Hospital.
I feel extremely privileged to be a Brain Aneurysm Survivor, to be able to tell my story and help raise awareness of the sudden onset symptoms of a Subarachnoid Haemorrhage, caused by a Brain Aneurysm, so that more lives can be saved.
Please sign the petition here to help raise awareness of Brain Aneurysms: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/122684/