Teenager who survived brain tumour celebrates 15th birthday

A teenager who doctors feared wouldn’t survive after developing a brain tumour has just celebrated a birthday she never believed she would have. Amy Williams celebrated her 15th birthday, less then two years after being diagnosed with her near fatal illness.

Diagnosis

At 13-years-old, Amy lived a normal teenage life until she complained to her mum Clare about headaches and feeling unwell. After being told by doctors this was due to hormonal changes, a week later on April 3, 2015, she had a seizure at her home in Windsor where her mum found her unconscious. She was rushed to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, her distraught family were told she may not even survive the short journey. Clare said: “I had a child that had never been to the doctor and never missed school. Then they told me she could be dying, but that was just the start of it.” A CT scan revealed Amy had a tumour on her brain stem.  The teenager then underwent 11 hours of brain surgery and was in a coma for three weeks. Doctors asked her parents if they wanted to turn off her life support machine fearing she would never be able to survive on her own. Amy says she could hear what people were saying around her but could not express herself.
It wasn’t scary because I kind of knew what had happened, I don’t know how. But because I could hear everyone around me saying ‘she won’t make it through’, that made me want to make it even more."Amy
After a month in a coma she opened her eyes and took a few breaths on her own through a life support ventilator, although it would be a further three months before she could breathe independently. Clare’s best friend, who Amy calls aunty, Shelley Digby, 43, said: “It was the most remarkable miracle. We were all beside ourselves, a dream come true. Our little girl who we thought we would never see again opened her eyes.”

Rehabilitation

Amy was severely brain damaged and needed to learn how to breathe, eat, talk, and walk again. She was at St George’s for six months before moving to The Children’s Trust in Tadworth, Surrey, for rehabilitation. Her parents put their careers on hold to spend time with Amy every day and even moved their family, Milly Attewell, five, and two-year-old Jack Attewell, to be closer to Amy as she recovered. Amy said visits from her family, including big sister Jade Louise Walden, 21, who visited nearly every day despite being heavily pregnant, made her more determined to recover. Jade gave birth to son Kai when Amy was still in hospital and brought him to the hospital. “When I saw Kai it just made me want to get better,” Amy said. Amy now attends Windsor Girls’ School part-time, and even though she missed a whole academic year, she was able to join her friends in year 10. Mum Clare said the experience has made Amy more outgoing.
People say to me ‘do you feel unlucky?’ but you know what, I feel really lucky. I haven’t lost her, she is still here. It is true what people say, your life can change in a day."Clare

Raising awareness

Amy now wants to raise awareness of the signs of a brain tumour by speaking to parents and going into schools to tell other children about her experience. She was encouraged to do this when she met the family of a little girl in a coma when she went for a check-up at St George’s. “Her dad was saying should I turn off the [life support] machine and I said ‘give her one last chance’,” said Amy. Later she describes: “We went to Tadworth [The Children’s Trust] and I met up with her in her wheelchair. I am so glad I spoke to her dad that day.” Amy has two more operations coming up in December, one to close the hole left by her tracheotomy and one to replace the nerves in the left side of her face, which is paralysed. The family currently live in Ascot, but are on the waiting list to be moved closer to the school in Windsor.
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