Notts student escapes death after doctors found a tumour in her brain

Half her head was cut open in surgery


A Nott’s student narrowly avoided death after doctors discovered ‘ticking time bomb’ tumours that could have exploded in her brain.

Maddy Warner underwent complex surgery six months ago that required surgeons to slice open half of her head before drilling out part of her skull to remove the life-threatening tumours.

Maddy Warner could have died without any warning

Maddy Warner could have died without any warning. (Credit: Maddy Warner)

Maddy received the shocking diagnosis last summer, shortly after finishing her first year of Nursing at Nottingham.

A mini-stroke on her birthday revealed that she was born with an arteriovenus malformation (AVM), an abnormal collection of blood vessels in her brain that could have killed her at any moment.

Neurologists also discovered that she had suffered a brain haemorrhage caused by ping pong ball sized masses at the front of her brain.

Maddy before her surgeries

Maddy before her surgeries.  (Credit: Maddy Warner)

Maddy, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, said: “The only symptom I recognised was on my 19th birthday. I had a really bad headache that woke me up and it felt like being hit round the head with a bat.

“When this persisted I was taken to hospital but doctors were baffled. It wasn’t until a few weeks later after being referred to a neurologist that they told me that I’d suffered a mini-stroke and a bleed on the brain, which was caused by AVM.

“I was so surprised as I never imagined something like that would happen to me. I couldn’t stop crying and was so scared.

“I put my life completely on hold, I dropped out of uni and didn’t go out very much because I didn’t want to risk another bleed on the brain.”

The student nurse had part of her skull drilled out

The student nurse had part of her skull drilled out. (Credit: Maddy Warner)

Maddy was forced to make an unenviable decision, a lengthy course of radiotherapy or a risky operation that could have left her brain damaged or even dead.

She bravely opted for surgery, first going under the knife six months ago, before a second operation two months ago to remove another third of the AVM which was hidden by the bleed on her brain that occurred weeks before the first operation.

“It was very tough. I decided surgery in the end because it was more of a quick treatment rather than the radiotherapy which took three years. Even though it was really scary I wanted to get back to uni as soon as I could.

Maddy needed 30 staples in her head

Maddy needed 30 staples in her head. (Credit: Maddy Warner)

“Surgeons peeled back the skin on my skull, took a tennis ball-sized chunk of bone out, removed the tumour and then screwed everything back into place.

“The first surgery was eight hours long and I can’t remember much of the next day. The first few days were hard, painful uncomfortable and I was very drugged up so spoke a lot of rubbish.

“I was in hospital for a week and it slowly got easier. The doctors told me I recovered really quickly considering what happened to me.”

Maddy has made a full recovery thanks to the Bristol Southmead hospital team and the support of friends and family. She now plans to return to uni to finish her training to become a nurse.

Maddy with her mum, Linda, after her last operation

Maddy with her mum, Linda, after her last operation. (Credit: Maddy Warner)

“It’s completely gone for good now. After my first surgery we found out there was a bit left which was hid by scar tissue so that’s why I had to have a second operation two months ago but it’s all gone now.”

“I finished my first year nursing last summer (2015) and had the stroke a few weeks later. I had to pause completely as would be way to dangerous to nurse and of course I needed time off to recover.

“I’m starting back at Notts this September in a new cohort of year two nursing. I’m coming up for my housemate’s 21st next week so it will be good to be back.

“I think it will change the way I nurse massively as I know what it’s like to be in their position.”