3rd Jul, 2022

'It's a miracle I survived' - Coventry mum who mistook brain injury for hangover speaks about her treatment

A WOMAN who nearly lost her life after mistaking a major brain injury for a hangover has talked about her journey for the first time.

Five years ago, Gemma Beales suffered horrendous headaches following a night out with her husband Mike – though put her pain down to a hangover.

The 33-year-old’s condition soon deteriorated, and she collapsed on the bathroom floor after suffering from seizures.

The former Coventry resident was rushed to University Hospital by ambulance where her seizures were controlled and she was taken for an MRI scan.

The scan found a bleed to Gemma’s brain, as well as a large number of clots over her body, and she was admitted to Critical Care.

More concerning news was revealed to Gemma’s family the following day.

She said: “The next morning, a senior nurse rang my parents to say that I’d seriously deteriorated and needed to have an emergency operation.

“They didn’t know if I’d survive, or what long-term effects the brain injury might have had, but that operation saved my life.

“Even my consultant said it was a miracle that I’d survived.”

During the operation, Gemma needed to have part of her skull removed to relieve pressure on her brain.

A piece of skull the size of a CD was stored in her abdomen to preserve it, Gemma was then put in an induced coma – which she was slowly brought out of a month later.

She added: “October 15 2011 is the first day I remember.

“My mum and best friend Cat were in my room talking about Cat’s recent hockey match.

“I loved hockey and every time I heard the special ‘H’ word, apparently I opened my eyes to try to join in with the conversation.”

After being brought out of critical care, the school teacher faced a slow process to full recovery.

Her determination shone through though, and although the brain injury affected the left side of her brain – which controls language – Gemma was soon back in her field of employment as a teaching assistant.

The past five years has proved to be a positive journey for Gemma.

She married her soulmate Mike in September 2013, landed a job as a nursery nurse practitioner, gave birth to her first child, Lewis, and completed the Three Peaks challenge with Mike in September 2016, raising £1,500 for the teams that saved her life five years earlier.

Lewis’ birth happened exactly four years after Gemma left critical care.

She said: “As well as my parents, Mike was my rock during everything that happened to me.

“Although we hadn’t been together that long, he didn’t leave my side – he was there while I was in hospital, and came with me for outpatient appointments.

“I’ve been helped by so many people at University Hospital, and Mike and I really wanted to give something back.

“I want to do everything I can to make people aware of the outstanding dedication and support that I’ve received from the NHS staff who’ve saved my life.”

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