Teenager almost died after night out drinking led to emergency skull surgery
A night out drinking almost cost Shaunha Webster her life after a fall led to her needing emergency skull surgery.AASMA DAY talks to the teenager and her mum who want to warn young people how the consequences of drinking too much can be life changing.
Watching her daughter lying in a hospital bed surrounded by tubes and machines, Tracy Webster felt utterly helpless and wished she didn’t have the inside knowledge as an intensive care nurse of the devastating events that might unfold.
“Being a nurse made it even more difficult for me as I knew what could happen and all the worst case scenarios” admits Tracy.
“It is difficult enough for any parent but when you are a nurse, it makes it worse as you sit there and know everything that is happening.
“At that moment you don’t want to be a nurse. You just want to be a mum.”
The family’s turmoil began just over a year ago on Boxing Day 2015 when Shaunha, went out for a night of drinking with some friends.
Shaunha, 18, recalls: “I went out for a few drinks with my friends and we went into town and I then went back to the house of someone I knew.
“After that, I can’t remember anything.”
Shaunha has since discovered she went upstairs of the house she was in to get a quilt and fell down the stairs.
Shaunha, who lives with her mum in Burnley, says: “I only fell down about five stairs but I hit my head on a kitchen worktop at the bottom of the stairs.
“Someone at the house found me unconscious. They left me for half-an-hour before they rang the hospital.
“It was only when I started bleeding from my ears that they decided to call an ambulance.”
Shaunha was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital with a head injury but at first, it was not apparent how serious her brain injury was.
Mum Tracy, 49, who is an intensive care nurse at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, says the first she learned about the incident was around lunchtime the following day when the police came to her home to break the news.
Tracy remembers: “Shaunha had gone out with friends the night before and did not return home but we knew this as she had told us she would be staying at a friend’s house.
“But then the police arrived the next day and told us that Shaunha had had an accident and hurt her head after falling down the stairs.
“When we first got to hospital, Shaunha was still in A&E and under observation.
“She was sleeping and drifting in and out of consciousness but the doctors were not too alarmed at this stage.
“We went home and fully expected to fetch Shaunha home from hospital the next day.
“But we then received a telephone call telling us to go back to the hospital as Shaunha’s condition had deteriorated.”
Shaunha was experiencing a lot of head pain and vomiting and medics noticed one of her pupils had got bigger so knew the injury to her brain had got worse.
She was rushed to theatre and a bolt was put into her head to measure the inter cranium pressure.
It was discovered that Shaunha’s brain swelling had got worse and the pressure had built up and become life threatening.
She was put into an induced coma and doctors battled to control the swelling.
Finally, the decision was made that she needed an emergency craniotomy.
Shaunha underwent surgery to have two pieces of her skull removed to allow her brain room to swell.
While operating, surgeons discovered a blood clot on her brain caused by the injury.
Tracy recalls: “It was a horrendous time and there were a couple of times when we really feared we were going to lose Shaunha.
“When she went into theatre for the surgery, I really had to brace myself for the fact that she might not come back.”
Luckily, Shaunha pulled through the surgery and despite a few more rocky days, she was sent home from hospital exactly a year ago today.
Shaunha’s memories of being in hospital are hazy and most of her recollections have come through her family who were unsure at what the future would hold.
Shaunha says: “It is still quite blurry and I can’t remember too much.I just remember family coming to visit me in hospital.
“It was very hard for them as they did not know if I would be myself when I woke up or if I would have learning difficulties.
“I had to have physio to get my balance back and learn to walk again.
“Doctors did warn my family at the time that it might take me two years to walk and talk again.
“But luckily I recovered quite quickly and I managed to walk quite soon although I was quite wobbly at first.
“It is amazing that I have come out of this like I am. I haven’t been left with any long term problems.
“I just feel tired all the time but doctors say it is because it was a head injury and it will take time to recover.”
After eight months of living with two parts of her skull missing, Shaunha underwent further surgery at Royal Preston Hospital to have two titanium plates inserted where her skull was.
Mum Tracy, who also has a son Daniel, 25, says Shaunha has been extremely lucky and they are so relieved she survived the experience.
Tracy explains: “When we first brought Shaunha home from hospital, she needed a lot of care and support and she had a lot of occupational health.
“She still has a long way to go but she has been a very strong person and has been an inspiration in the way she has handled everything that has happened to her.
“Shaunha has never complained and has just taken it all in her stride.
“She is now recovering from the operation to have metal plates put in her head and this year is going to be all about getting her life back on track.”
Shaunha, who was studying health and social care at the time of the accident, says: “I feel extremely lucky and it is amazing what the doctors have done to save my life. If I had not been taken to hospital when I was, it would have been a very different story.”
Shaunha and her mum want to highlight the dangers of drinking too much and head injuries and want to urge other young people to stay safe as one wrong decision can be life changing.
Shaunha admits: “I was quite drunk on that night. I am not sure how much I had.
“I would like to warn other people not to drink too much and not to wander off with people who they think they know. I think many young people don’t think about the consequences of drinking too much.
“Even a bang on the head can change your life forever.
“Now, I only go out drinking on special occasions.
“It is frightening to think that I almost died twice and my family were told to expect the worst.”
Tracy says: “It is so fortunate that Shaunha pulled through and we know how lucky she was.
“Shaunha had been drinking on the night this happened and without that element, I don’t think this would have happened.
“I know accidents can happen to anybody but I also know that alcohol played a major part in what happened to Shaunha.
“I want young people to be aware that this is what could happen if they drink so much they lose control.
“My advice to young people is yes, go out and enjoy yourself but stay safe.
“Shaunha was very lucky. She had youth on her side and the wonderful care of Mr Golash and his team at Royal Preston Hospital.
“The care she received from them was second to none and I will never be able to repay them for everything they did for her.”
Shaunha adds: “I want to thank Mr Golash and his team. They have been amazing and have looked after me really well both while I was in hospital and since.”
Aprajay Golash, consultant neurosurgeon at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, says: “Shaunha was initially thought to have a minor head injury but she deteriorated a couple of days later.
“At that point, she had severe brain swelling and was almost dying. To allow her brain to swell, we had to operate to remove a big part of the skull on both sides of her head. Shaunha was in intensive care for a while and then recovered well.
“A few months ago, she had further surgery to reconstruct her skull with metal plates. We are very pleased Shaunha has made such a great recovery.
“The message I would like to give is that head injury is serious and can be life threatening.
“Get specialist advice and treatment as quickly as possible.”