If this lady had gone to a chiropractor the anti chiropractic rent a mouths would have been telling the Sun it was the chiropractors fault. When in fact vascular incidents in the neck are just as common after seeing a GP as they are after seeing a chiropractor (idiopathic vascular incidents ) The best the patient can hope for in these cases is an experienced clinician who recognises the signs and symptoms and refers the patient urgently to a neurologist. If the patient is given pain medication they have no chance they will assume they have been cured if the pain has gone away, because no one thaught it was important to establish what was causing the pain.
Sharon was told she had a trapped nerve – in fact she was days away from death
By Isla Whitcroft Daily Mail
Last updated at 11:02 AM on 22nd December 2009
Survivor: Sharon Fielding had a near fatal aneurysm
Sharon Fielding has the dubious privilege of knowing the exact day she was supposed to have died.
Doctors tell her that on July 4, 2008, the aneurysm sitting in an artery at the top of her neck would have ruptured, causing catastrophic damage from which she would never have recovered had she not fought to be admitted to hospital hours before.
‘I still get shivers down my spine today when I think about how close I came to death,’ says Sharon, who lives near Maidstone in Kent. ‘I had no idea there was a ticking time bomb in my head.’
More worrying was that neither did any of the doctors she visited in the ten days leading up to the emergency.
When she complained of agonising headaches and a stiff neck, Sharon’s GP, osteopath and an A&E doctor failed to realise the urgency of the situation, sending her home with painkillers after diagnosing a trapped nerve.
Only when Sharon, a 57-year-old mother of two, saw a neurologist privately did scans show how close to death she was.
‘Sharon was extremely lucky,’ says Tim Hampton, the consultant neuroradiologist at King’s College Hospital in London who carried out her operation. ‘About one third of all ruptured aneurysms result in death, half of those before they reach hospital.’
But they shouldn’t be. For years doctors believed there was no way of knowing when an aneurysm – a weakening on the wall of an artery, usually in the brain or the abdomen – would blow up like a balloon and burst, causing death.
Now research suggests that in 40 per cent of cases there are warning signs, including headache, stiff neck, vomiting days or even weeks before the rupture.
Yet Sharon’s story reveals a terrifying lack of awareness of these symptoms among some members of the medical profession.
Sharon admits she didn’t take her initial symptoms seriously when they first appeared in June last year.
‘I was making dinner after work one Monday evening,’ she says. ‘Suddenly the back of my head and my neck went very tight. It was the strangest feeling, as if my head would split in two if I moved it.
‘I found out later that a tight feeling, like a spasm, is a common symptom of a brain aneurysm. I called out to my husband Steve, who said I was grey. I was suddenly violently sick. Steve wanted to call an ambulance, but I didn’t want to make a fuss. I said I would feel better after a night’s rest.
‘I had no idea there was a ticking time bomb in my head’
That was probably the silliest decision I’ve ever made. I could have gone to sleep and never woken up. ‘In the morning, I knew something was still wrong. Any sudden movement caused a surge of pain from the base of my neck up to the top of my head.’
Sharon saw her GP, who diagnosed a trapped nerve and prescribed an anti-inflammatory.
‘I’d had a trapped nerve years before and it was easy to jump to that conclusion,’ agrees Sharon. ‘But the pain didn’t go, so I saw an osteopath, who massaged my stiff neck but warned she couldn’t help if the problem was inside my skull.
‘Over the next few days I took painkillers, but they didn’t help and I started to worry. Although I accepted the diagnosis, instinctively I felt it was more serious.
‘On the Friday I again saw the osteopath, who referred me back to the doctor. I thought I would give it until after the weekend to see if I had improved.’
Incredibly, the following Monday Sharon returned to work, but was soon sent home.
‘My left eyelid was drooping and I was suffering from blurred vision. Steve picked me up and took me straight to A&E.’
Sharon was now displaying classic signs of an aneurysm that was about to blow.
Warning signs: Sharon complained of agonising headaches and stiffness in her neck, like a spasm
‘Brain aneurysms are commonly sited near a group of nerves – one of which affects the eye,’ explains Dr Hampton. ‘As the artery becomes swollen, the optic nerve is affected. A drooping eyelid, or blurred vision, combined with a severe and prolonged headache should be a warning to any healthcare professional that this is a medical emergency.
‘It basically spells brain injury, whether caused by a stroke, an aneurysm or a tumour.’
The A&E doctor acknowledged that she ‘probably needed a scan’, but rather than admitting Sharon as an emergency, he told her to make an appointment with her GP.
‘That decision could have cost me my life,’ says Sharon.
The following day, the GP took one look at Sharon’s eye and recognised something was seriously wrong.
‘He tried to get me a CT scan as an emergency, but there wasn’t an appointment available.’
At this point Sharon’s employer stepped in, offering to pay for Sharon to have scans privately. That act of kindness saved her life.
‘I heard a nurse calling my name, woke up and my first thought was: “I’m still alive”’
On the Wednesday she was seen by Sam Chong, consultant neurologist at King’s College Hospital.
‘I was extremely frightened,’ says Sharon. ‘My headaches were worse, I could hardly open my left eye and I had double vision. Mr Chong ordered immediate MRI scans of my neck and head.
‘I was allowed home afterwards, but Steve was given a CD of the scans to keep in case I suddenly got worse.’
At 10.30pm that day Mr Chong rang Sharon at home to tell her he’d been studying the scans and that she needed an urgent operation. She was admitted to King’s College Hospital that night, where she was told she had a highly unstable aneurysm in the neck in her posterior communicating artery, which runs up the neck and branches out around the brain.
‘My left pupil had opened up very wide, which is a sign that the brain pressure was extremely high,’ says Sharon. ‘I was told that if nothing was done, it would rupture and I’d probably die, and if I had an operation I had a high chance of dying on the operating table.
‘It was as if a time bomb was ticking away inside my brain ready to explode. Before they operated, I knew I might never wake up from it. Both Steve and I were very distressed.’
During the two-and-a-half-hour operation, Mr Hampton made a tiny incision in Sharon’s groin and threaded several tiny platinum coils into her blood vessels and up into the affected artery.
They were placed into the aneurysm filling it up, so the blood supply could no longer get into the swollen space and rupture it. An electric current was passed through each coil, encouraging the blood to clot, which helped to seal the aneurysm.
‘I heard a nurse calling my name, woke up and my first thought was: “I’m still alive”,’ says Sharon. ‘It was a feeling of unutterable relief. My headache was gone.’
Sharon was discharged after ten days. ‘My recovery was slow. It was months before I could go back to work. I was told there are several reasons for aneurysms.
One cause is smoking, which I have never done. Another is hereditary, but there was no history of aneurysm in my family.
‘They did find I had very high blood pressure and that is believed to be a possible cause, so now I am on medication for it for life.’
Medics such as Mr Chong believe it is time to raise awareness of this terrifyingly destructive condition. ‘The more people who know about the symptoms of aneurysm, the more lives we can try to save,’ he says.
‘The window of opportunity to save people like Sharon is often very narrow. If you are suffering from an acute sudden onset headache or spasming, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about insisting on an immediate scan.’
Sharon campaigns to raise awareness of the condition that so nearly killed her.
‘If I had known about aneurysms, I would have been more insistent on getting my symptoms checked out and I wouldn’t have been so concerned about making a fuss. I went to the professionals. But when they were blasÈ about my symptoms, I stopped listening to my instincts.’
Mr Hampton says this is a real issue. ‘There is a lack of awareness that these symptoms are a cause for a medical emergency.’
Sharon says: ‘I was fortunate to survive. Others might not be so lucky.