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Brain haemorrhage survivor Terri says ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ as she describes recovery journey

Terri Bowden and her baby girl Wren
Terri Bowden and her baby girl Wren

People shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I realise this now more than ever. On the outside I look completely fine, but on the inside it’s a completely different story.

In April 2013, at the age of 22, I suffered a brain haemorrhage which has totally turned my life upside down. I was in the house on my own and was just about to have a shower when I got a sudden headache. I felt dizzy and nauseous so I laid on the bathroom floor. I thought I should get a drink of water but when I stood up I could barely hold my weight, my feet kept going under me. Somehow I managed to stumble to the kitchen, grabbing hold of furniture on the way. When I tried to have a drink I just ended up tipping it down my body. This is when I started to realise that it could be something serious.

I crawled upstairs and managed to call a friend. I didn’t realise, but after he said I wasn’t talking clearly and I was just shouting. He thought I was being burgled so he came as quickly as possible. Once he arrived I had been sick on myself and was really confused and drowsy. He called an ambulance straight away.

At the hospital I had an MRI scan, which found that I’d had a brain haemorrhage caused by a burst aneurysm. I had an operation to try to control the aneurysm so it wouldn’t happen again. For the next three months I had to rest a lot and take medication to prevent epileptic fits and for pain relief. I was also suffering with numbness in my legs and double vision.  My social life was none existent as I had to suspend my driving licence and limit my daily activities. I didn’t feel I could make plans with friends as my health varied so much each day. I had also become sensitive to noise, light and busy situations and found watching television very stressful. To cope, I found drawing was a nice quiet activity that didn’t take up too much concentration.

Life started getting back to ‘normal’ after that. I returned to work as a waitress and to university where I studied applied arts. In the following year, November was an exciting time as I hosted my first solo art exhibition, but it was a massive struggle preparing the work for it. Juggling this along with sewing Christmas gifts meant I was physically exhausted and I started suffering with headaches and sharp pains in my head and eyes.

Even so, I carried on and would often keep busy to try and distract from the way I was feeling – but it wasn’t long before the brakes needed to go on. The surgery I had previously had to try and fix the burst aneurysm was unsuccessful and I had invasive brain surgery. I was extremely lucky that the operation was successful; however I still suffer with the symptoms associated with the haemorrhage.

I have constant headaches, tinnitus, brain fog, depression, face tingling and chronic fatigue. Every day is a battle, finding out my limitations the hard way. I get extremely frustrated living a capped life but I have had a great deal of help from family and friends and the head injury rehabilitation centre. To say thank you to the staff at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital for saving my life and their fantastic care, we are also active fundraisers for Neurocare, a Sheffield charity which raises funds to buy equipment and support research to save and improve the lives of patients with a range of debilitating or potentially fatal neurological conditions. Over time we have raised more than £3,000 and I continue to give a percentage of my profits from my two businesses to this charity. My partner Callum has been amazing with his fundraising, in 2016 he did the Lyke Wake Walk with my brother in law and two friends.

I am so grateful for not visually looking poorly, but it is difficult when people don’t know what’s going on inside and what goes on behind closed doors. So many tears, emotional outbursts and the endless times when my partner has to put my pyjamas on and help me into bed because I am so exhausted.

I sometimes feel like the battle is too much, but then I look how far I have come, all I have achieved – my beautiful baby girl, Wrenn, and how lucky I am to be here to see her grow up. There is hope - and I wanted to tell my story to give others hope too - you are not alone. 

Terri has written a poem called ‘But a part of me shines’ which can be read on the Neurocare Charity’s Facebook page - @neurocare.charity. To donate to Neurocare, or for more information about fundraising, visit www.neurocare.org.uk