'It's very hard not to cry when your child tells you that she can't see you'

Diagnosed with a brain tumour aged nine, Sara Gulbe was left with memory and sight loss but thanks to support from a local charity in Northern Ireland is now enjoying college.

Sara, who is now studying travel & tourism, was diagnosed ten years ago after she started experiencing crippling headaches.  At first, the family were told she had migraines. But it was later discovered that she had a tumour growing in the middle of her brain. Doctors could not give any promises that she would survive surgery due to the tumour’s position and the family decided to delay the operation. But just before her 10th birthday, Sara's symptoms returned and she was operated on immediately. It was a success but Sara, now 19, faced month of gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She lost her hair and was left with permanent issues including eyesight problems. Her mum, Anita says: "She can see straight on but her peripheral vision is affected. It is very hard not to cry when your child tells you, 'mummy, I can't see you'." Sara was also left with hearing loss and other effects of acquired brain injury including memory problems. She had to learn everything again, including writing. "She was a very good student at school - first in her class in maths. She lost all of that because she needed a long time to recover," says Anita. "At first she didn't understand why she couldn't remember things. She went back to school but it was hard for her because she was different and was targeted by bullies." The family – including her four siblings - rallied around Sara. "It affected the family very much. My eldest child Kasper was a teenager at the time and he understood how serious it was. But my other children were too young to really understand. They tried to be happy but they felt lost. They didn't know how to react to Sara," she says. Although the family lived in Latvia at the time of Sara’s illness, they have lived in Northern Ireland for five years. Sara has been receiving support through Brain Injury Matters which supports families in Northern Ireland. Through the charity, Sara meets others who have had experienced similar and she is taught techniques to help her live with things like memory loss. She is now more independent and is able to travel on the bus on her own. Brain Injury Matters received £700,000 Big Lottery Fund's Supporting Families programme to work with Belfast Health & Social Care Trust on the five-year Family First project. It will offer intensive support to children under 12 with acquired brain injury and their families across Northern Ireland. Click here to read more at Belfast Telegraph.   
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