In November 2010, Siobhan Whyte began to have a feeling of numbness from her waist down on her left-hand side and severe pain in her shoulder blades. Siobhain was born with Spina Bifida and had an operation on her lower spine when she was a baby. She was concerned enough to make a trip to her GP.
However, her GP thought it was something that could be sorted out with a course of physio and muscle relaxants. The treatment seemed to release the numbness she was experiencing and she was referred to a specialist where she was told that it was ‘nothing to worry about’.
She felt better for 14 months, but then the numbness crept back, along with extreme nerve pain between her should blades and weakness in her left leg. She went straight back to the physio, whose treatment seemed to bring back the strength in her leg and ease both the numbness and pain. However the relief never lasted long and she had to manage the pain with a mixture of panadol and high strength anti-inflammatory tablets. Two months later, she went back to the GP to get some stronger pain killers to manage the pain while on a work trip in the UK. She was given another referral to the specialist and was asked to contact him when she got home as the GP was ‘worried’ with how long the symptoms were lasting. .
That Friday, while returning from her work trip to London, a suitcase fell on her from an overhead locker. Over the next few days, the numbness began to travel up her left side to her hand and to move across her body to her right-hand side.
Says Siobhain, “By the following Monday evening, I couldn’t grip a zip or a button and so couldn’t dress or do anything for myself any more”. She knew there was something seriously wrong and that Wednesday, went to A & E in Blackrock Clinic where she was admitted overnight. The next day it was confirmed that it was a neurological problem caused by a tumour in the C6/7 vertebrae in her neck. She was confined to complete bed rest, having now lost all feeling in her left leg.
The clinicians in Blackrock immediately contacted Beaumont Hospital - the country’s national referral centre for Neurosurgery - where her scans were examined. Siobhain had a tumour at the top of her spine, which is believed to have been there since birth. This had now tightened (perhaps as a result of the suitcase falling on her) causing her symptoms and she was transferred to Beaumont Hospital for surgery. Her surgery was scheduled for 8.00pm that evening but her slot was delayed to make way for emergency surgery. And although it was his birthday, her surgeon waited until midnight to carry out the operation as he knew the tumour had to be removed without delay.
Speaking about her time in Beaumont Hospital, Siobhain says, “The staff were excellent. Everyone looked after me so well. I really wasn’t the worst person there but I watched the nurses helping others who could do nothing for themselves, saw them lifting and turning them and the effort it took. What struck me was how they just took it in their stride. That really impressed me”.
When Siobhain came around the next day she was pain free for the first time in months. But now she had to learn how to walk and use her limbs again.
She says, “The Surgeon told me there was a 10% chance I would be made worse as a result of the operation. If I declined it, there was a 100% chance I would be paralysed, and sooner rather than later. So to be honest, I really owe all the staff at Beaumont everything. That is why I am so proud to be running for the charity in this year’s Ladies Mini-marathon .
Siobhain's Fundraising Support for Beaumont Hospital Foundation
Despite Siobhain's recent return to full mobility, she took part in the ladies Mini-marathon in aid of Beaumont Hospital Foundation.