The headache of a student that she thought was caused by exam stress was actually caused by a brain ball the size of a golf ball.
Rhiannan Harris, 23, started her studies in May 2018 with regular headaches that felt like & # 39; someone was holding a hand drill for her & # 39 ;.
She also noticed that her vision had blurred, but she expected that she needed another eye test since she was a child.
Opticians noticed something was wrong and immediately referred her to the hospital, where doctors thought there was a fluid cyst in her brain.
What had to be a four-hour operation to get rid of the cyst changed into a nine-hour marathon when doctors discovered that there was, in fact, a large benign brain tumor.
Miss Harris went into cardiac arrest twice and was brought into an induced coma after surgeons removed as much as possible from the masses.
Her speech, balance and coordination have since become limited and she is equipped with a shunt to allow fluid to flow out of her brain, stopping her master's degree in forensic science.
Rhiannan Harris, 23, got a headache in May 2018, but assumed it was from exam stress when she just graduated (pictured, with her parents Paul and Kim)
The symptoms of Miss Harris, including blurred vision, turned out to be a brain size of a wave. This left her with hydrocephalus, an accumulation of fluid in the brain, which required a shunt fit (pictured)
Miss Harris, from Kettering, Northamptonshire said: “I've had migraine headaches since my teens, but I've never had anything as normal or painful as this one before.
& # 39; Every other day it was as if someone was holding a hand drill to my sleep and turning the crank slowly.
& # 39; Looking back it was clearly a red flag, but at that time I put it down to stress after the exam. & # 39;
Miss Harris had just finished her studies at the University of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands in May 2018, when she was traveling to Tunisia with her parents, Paul, 53, a construction manager, and Kim, 49, a retail manager.
Since she had short-sighted glasses since 2007, Miss Harris assumed that her somewhat blurred vision meant she needed a new prescription.
She said: & # 39; Looking into the distance, I saw a slight decline with my normal glasses.
& # 39; It was like looking through binoculars that were slightly out of focus, but as soon as I pushed my sunglasses on, everything became clearer immediately.
& # 39; I just assumed that my recipe had changed a bit and didn't think about it.
& # 39; Never in a million years could I have suspected that some small changes in my eyes were the result of a brain tumor. & # 39;
Miss Harris noted that her vision was out of focus during a vacation in Tunisia with her parents, but she expected that she needed another eye test because she had been wearing glasses since she was a child
When Miss Harris, pictured on a camel with her parents in Tunisia, returned to the UK, she booked an appointment with Vision Express. The optician immediately referred her to General Hospital of Kettering after seeing swelling on her optic nerve
Miss Harris had a nine-hour operation when doctors discovered a benign brain tumor made from hard tissue mass. She went into cardiac arrest twice and was brought into an induced coma after surgeons had removed as much as possible from the masses. Pictured before
Two weeks after her vacation, on June 13, 2018, Miss Harris booked an appointment at her local Vision Express.
The optician immediately referred her to General Hospital of Kettering after seeing swelling on her optic nerve.
WHAT IS A BENIGNINE NUMBER AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
A benign brain tumor is a mass of non-cancer cells that grows relatively slowly.
Non-cancerous brain tumors tend to stay in one place and do not spread.
Common symptoms are:
- new, persistent headache
- seizures (epileptic seizures)
- persistent nausea, vomiting and sleepiness
- mental or behavioral changes, such as changes in personality
- weakness or paralysis, eyesight problems or speech problems
The cause of most non-cancerous brain tumors is unknown, but the NHS states that risk factors are older than 50, family history of brain tumors, a genetic condition such as type 1 and type 2 neurofibromatosis, and radiotherapy treatment.
If the tumor can be completely removed in one operation, it will usually not return.
If not, there is a risk that it can grow back.
Although brain tumors grow slowly, there is limited space in the skull and the brain occupies most of the skull.
Overtime, the mass can grow in the spinal cord or press on surrounding nerves.
Treatment may not be necessary if the tumor is growing at a controlled rate.
Surgery can also damage the nerves surrounding the tumor, and give patients the risk of stroke and swelling if the mass is removed.
Controlled radiation doses, such as gamma-knife treatment, can target a difficult-to-reach tumor without damaging the surrounding tissue.
After MRI and CT scans, doctors detected what they thought was a cystic fluid in her brain, and kept her under observation at the hospital for 10 days to make sure it didn't increase in size.
Miss Harris said: & # 39; It wasn't the best news, but it wasn't the worst news either.
& # 39; I didn't panic because I kept reminding myself that I was in the hospital surrounded by experts who knew what they were doing.
& # 39; If I had allowed myself, I could have gone to a very dark place, but looking, I could see that my parents were overwhelmed by the whole thing and I wanted to keep it for them. & # 39;
Two weeks after being discharged with painkillers, Miss Harris was scheduled for a craniotomy surgery at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford on July 27.
The procedure involved making a small hole in the skull so that the cyst could be drained from fluid to relieve pressure on the brain.
She said: “Drilling a hole in my skull was not exactly how I intended to spend my first summer as a graduate, but doctors assured me that I was in good hands and that I would be within four hours & # 39; in and out & # 39;
& # 39; Waking up and being told that I had a brain tumor removed instead of deflating a cyst and that I had actually died twice, well, it was a lot to record. & # 39;
A week after the operation, a biopsy confirmed that the tumor was benign, but because surgeons cannot remove everything, she must have regular MRI scans to monitor the remaining nodules and to prevent them from spreading.
Miss Harris said: “The operation really affected every aspect of my daily life. All of a sudden my speech, balance and coordination were really limited. & # 39;
Weeks after discharge from the hospital, on September 5, Miss Harris was admitted to the hospital again after feeling that her head was about to explode.
She was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, an accumulation of fluid in the brain due to the tumor.
The excess fluid exerts pressure on the brain, which can damage it. If left untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal.
Doctors have placed a shunt, a thin tube that drains fluid from the brain into the stomach so that it can be taken back into the body.
This was a particularly heavy blow because Miss Harris had hoped to start a Masters course, fascinated by forensic science from childhood.
Miss Harris had to pause her master's because of a relapse in her recovery. Depicted in the hospital with her father after a shunt has been made
Miss Harris, pictured with her mother at a party, said: "Waking up and being told that a brain tumor had been removed instead of a cyst empty and that I had actually died twice, well, it was a lot to take with you in & # 39;
But the hydrocephalus had pushed her back, which meant that she needed more time to recover before she could submit to further studies.
She said: & # 39; All my friends started their graduation assignment or master's degree and there I was, and had a new way back to my recovery. & # 39;
Miss Harris was initially limited to a wheelchair and had weekly physiotherapy sessions, but slowly began to build up the strength to walk with a frame.
She said: Standing in front of my colleagues and getting my diploma was a real boost.
& # 39; It turned out that I was just as capable as everyone else, it just cost a little more hard work. & # 39;
It will now be at least September 2020 before Miss Harris returns to her forensic scientific studies.
In the meantime, she has worked with Vision Express to make people aware of the importance of regular eye tests.
She said: & I have sent in the application forms and plan to go back to college this year, but when it got closer, I realized – I am just not ready.
& # 39; It has been hard to lose my independence in such a huge way, I have become my own person for three years and suddenly got trapped at home with my parents.
& # 39; But I still thank my happy stars that I went to the optician when I did that, as if I had left it, perhaps I had not been here today.
& # 39; I will forever be grateful to the Vision Express team and the doctors and nurses who helped me during my recovery.
& # 39; I had to stop my life for 12 months because of all this, but I remind myself every day that it could have been a lot worse. & # 39;
Vision Express offers an eye test on the College of Optometrists (COO) Best Practice Guidelines, where every Vision Express optician is a qualified professional ophthalmologist.
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