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Patient Story


March 7, 2024

Madeline had always been a vibrant soul, living a life filled with joy and purpose. With a full-time job, a loving marriage, and two grown children, she cherished every moment she spent with her family and friends. Her days were brimming with activities she loved – from tending to her garden to indulging in hobbies like swimming and attending the theatre. Madeline was the epitome of a bubbly personality, always the one to organise gatherings and events.

However, in September 2021, Madeline’s life took an unexpected turn. She began experiencing balance issues and dizzy spells, which she initially attributed to menopause. Little did she know, these symptoms were just the beginning of a challenging journey ahead. After suffering from labyrinthitis for two weeks, Madeline sought medical advice, hoping for a simple solution like having her ears syringed to clear any wax.

To her shock, a routine MRI scan revealed something far more serious – an Acoustic Neuroma/Vestibular Schwannoma benign tumour attached to her right ear, impacting her brainstem, ear nerve, balance, and facial nerve. The tumour had silently grown for at least a decade, unbeknownst to Madeline. The only option presented was brain surgery, a daunting prospect exacerbated by the delays caused by the ongoing COVID-19 situation and staffing shortages.

Vestibular schwannoma is a relatively rare condition. In the UK, it affects approximately 13 people in every million per year. The symptoms can vary depending on the size and location of the tumour. Common symptoms may include hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), dizziness or imbalance, facial numbness or weakness, and pressure or fullness in the ear. Treatment options for vestibular schwannoma also depend on various factors including the size of the tumour, the patient’s age and overall health, and the severity of symptoms. Treatment may include watchful waiting (monitoring the tumour for changes), surgery to remove the tumour, stereotactic radiosurgery (focused radiation therapy), or a combination of these approaches. Remember that vestibular schwannomas are very rare but individuals experiencing symptoms suggestive of vestibular schwannoma, such as hearing loss or balance problems, should still seek medical evaluation for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

After enduring three postponements, Madeline finally underwent the first of three operations on May 15, 2022. While the tumour was successfully removed, the surgery left her facial nerve severed. Subsequent operations aimed to reconnect her facial nerve, correct facial drooping, and address other complications. The recovery process was arduous – marked by bouts of depression, lack of confidence, and physical limitations.

For months, Madeline struggled with basic tasks like eating and drinking, unable to smile without feeling self-conscious about her lopsided face. The once outgoing and sociable Madeline found herself withdrawing from social interactions, grappling with feelings of “why me?” and mourning the person she used to be. But amidst the darkness, there was a glimmer of hope. Madeline gradually regained her strength, returning to work full-time and reclaiming her independence, including driving. However, the emotional scars remained, prompting Madeline to seek support from Hobbs Rehabilitation Winchester.

Under the guidance of Chrissy Bibby, Madeline embarked on a journey of facial palsy rehabilitation. Together, they focused on facial exercises to reduce scar tissue and improve flexibility, crucial for restoring movement to her paralysed face. Chrissy’s expertise and encouragement helped Madeline navigate the challenges and frustrations of adapting to her “new face.”

Despite the setbacks, Madeline remained determined and resilient. With each session at Hobbs Rehabilitation, she felt a renewed sense of optimism and gratitude for the second chance at life she had been given. Through hard work and perseverance, Madeline embraced her journey of recovery, knowing that with Chrissy’s support, she could face whatever challenges lay ahead.

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