A woman whose brain tumour doubled in size while she was expecting her son is thanking specialists at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 14 years after they saved both her and her son’s life.
Louise Houghton, 46, of Barnsley, posted a heartfelt Tweet thanking staff at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals for “another precious year of life” after they successfully removed a brain tumour in August 2005.
Although it was 14 years ago, Louise said she would never forget the “life-saving work” of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.
“I first learned I had developed an acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous growth which connects the inner ear with the brain, when I was 24 weeks pregnant with my son. I had numbness on my face and I couldn’t focus my eyes. At first it came as a shock but I was told it was benign and only large tumours can cause serious complications.”
However, as the pregnancy progressed, those serious complications started to become a reality and Louise started to suffer with severe headaches.
“At 37 weeks, all was fine with the baby, but I was still having problems. I had to start using a zimmer frame to aid walking and I had an eye patch on my left eye,” said Louise, who used to work as a police officer.
“An MRI scan showed that the tumour had doubled in size in less than seven weeks..I was 32 and heavily pregnant. The scan showed my tumour had compacted against my brain stem and was full of cysts, meaning any operation would be even more complicated. I was given a course of steroids to give my son a much better chance of survival.”
On the 18th August 2005, the obstetrician delivered Louise’s son Rhufon by c-section. He was nine weeks premature and weighed just 4lb 10ozs. Four days later a team of surgeons led by Consultant Neurosurgeon Thomas Carroll and Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon Mark Yardley at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, removed the tumour during a 15 hour operation.
“It was such a traumatic time, my son was in special care but I now faced life-saving brain surgery. The tumour had retracted round the corner of my brain stem so it was a really tricky operation and it was too dangerous to remove some small remnants.
“I’m still deaf in one ear, and struggle with tinnitus and balance problems, but it’s no exaggeration to say that without the teams at the Royal Hallamshire and Jessop Wing we wouldn’t be here today. The treatment and level of care I received in Sheffield was amazing. I could have ended up with epilepsy or nasty facial palsy following my surgery but I didn’t. I’m so lucky to live in the area that I do, as people often have to travel huge distances to get specialist neurological and obstetric care.”
Bonding with her baby helped Louise to recover from the brain surgery, as she “didn’t have time to wallow”. Two and a half years after having Rhufon she had stereotactic radiotherapy (gamma-knife surgery) to shrink the final remnants of the tumour, which kept growing while she was breastfeeding.
In her Tweet Louise said: “My son and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the life-saving work of #NHS. My thanks to @SheffieldHosp for another precious year. Acoustic neuromas don’t need to be life-threatening, but they are when you’re pregnant and the tumour doubles in size!”