Mark'sMark's Story


Well, it all started on June   20th 1998.

Hadn't felt too good for a couple of days since taking part in a tug 'o' war at a local carnival. I was serving with Cheshire Special Constabulary at the time, the boss thought it a good idea to challenge a local pub to a show of strength and a tug 'o' war was arranged. The competition was best of three and we got whooped! After the event I didn't feel too good, I felt very dizzy and had a slight headache. I put this down to lack of fitness and perhaps being slightly overweight. After returning to my regular job on Monday (Drainage Engineer) I still felt ill and found I was taking Paracetamol to ease the pain, but had no idea what was about to unfold. After a while the headaches stopped and I breathed a sigh of relief. I carried on as usual until Thursday 25 June when the headaches started again and at this point I started to worry a little. I was driving my father-in-law home and kept feeling a vibration down my left hand, I thought I had a puncture and kept checking to see if the tyre had deflated. On arriving back home I had some more pain relief, some lunch, watched a little telly and went to bed feeling quite ill.


I awoke around 2am with a pain in my head - that in my opinion - must be the worse pain a human being could experience; yes, it was that bad! I realised this wasn't normal, but just thought of getting some pain relief. I didn't care that I had nearly finished a bottle of tablets; I just needed to get rid of this horrendous pain. I looked around the bathroom, but couldn't find any painkillers. I woke my wife Jackie and she managed to find some Paracetamol. Jackie asked me if I wanted her to call the Emergency Doctor and I told her yes. While she was on the phone I decided I needed to pee. I found I couldn't stand up to pee and had to sit down, as I did so and my bum touched the seat I felt something pop in my head, something similar to when you twang an elastic band. After this I felt warm liquid being pumped over the surface of my brain and realised it was blood!

I calmly walked down the stairs and told Jackie to hang up the phone and call for an Ambulance. I guess the Doctor must have heard me ask Jackie to call for an Ambulance and he agreed that would be best. While I waited for the Ambulance I felt a very tight sensation in my head, especially around my temple. At this point I felt very sick and then started vomiting uncontrollably. When the Ambulance arrived the Paramedics insisted that the problem was food poisoning, but at that time I didn't tell them about the vessel bursting in my head; I didn't want to frighten Jackie! I kept on saying to myself, "don't forget to tell the Doctor about the feeling in your head".

After arriving at Whiston Hospital everything went blank! My wife tells me that I went into a very confused state and shortly after this went unconscious. I woke in hospital some three weeks later, the nurse rubbing my hand saying, "Come on Mark, Wake up".

Julie, my Nurse, asked if I knew where I was and I said, "I guess I'm in hospital". I had no recollection what had happened. I was told that I had suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and had nearly died. I had been on life support for around three weeks in the Walton Neurological Centre in Liverpool . Apparently when I had been unconscious I had vomited, the vomit had entered my lungs and this had resulted in a severe chest infection that under the circumstances was life threatening. The surgeon had thought it best to keep me sedated until the chest infection had improved.


I was wondering what had caused the haemorrhage and no one could give me a strait answer. I wanted to speak with the Neurosurgeon to see if I could get more information from him, but he was nowhere to be seen. I also noticed at this point that I couldn't see very well and what sight I had was really poor. After around a week The Neurosurgeon visited me (Mr Eldridge) and I thanked him for saving my life, I also asked him why I had suffered a Haemorrhage. He told me that I had suffered an Intracerebral Haemorrhage from and Arteriovenus Malformation (AVM). The AVM had been removed but he had also had to remove a small part of my brain, about the size of a 50 pence piece. At this point he told me that I would possibly be registered blind and shortly after I was. Mr Eldridge explained to me that the AVM had been present since birth and it was like a "time bomb" waiting to go off!


The AVM was buried under the surface of the brain and when the vessel finally burst, it also burst through the brain tissue causing damage to the cerebral cortex damaging the part of my brain that controls sight. I also experienced a bleed in my left eye (Terson's Syndrome), which has damaged the optic nerve and retina. I remained in hospital for around three months, and then was sent home. I still had left side paralysis and was unable to walk. I spent the next 6 months or so in a wheelchair and after numerous physiotherapy sessions at Halton Hospital , regained the use of my left side and was able to walk again. At this stage I was offered the opportunity of a Guide Dog, which I snapped up immediately. His name is Quantas and I've had him now for around 6 years, he's a real Godsend.


I must say that the worse thing that I experienced was the Psychological affects. I spend around 18 months receiving psychological treatment after suffering severe depression, panic and anxiety attacks. To loose your "normal" way of life over night is one hell of a shocking experience and I wouldn't wish it on my worse enemy. But eh, I've been given a second chance for some reason and I'm enjoying life again, it was one hell of an experience and I hope I'm a better person for it.


If there is anyone reading this who has just suffered a haemorrhage and is feeling pretty low, take heart, things do get better, but it does take time. If anyone would like to mail me and talk about my experiences or ask any questions please feel free to do so.

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Mark Shakeshaft.