Mother tells of brain haemorrhage battle

A MOTHER-OF-THREE who nearly died from a brain haemorrhage at the age of only 32 has spoken of her remarkable recovery.Rachael Underdown was warming-up on a treadmill at her local gym when she suddenly collapsed.

A MOTHER-OF-THREE who nearly died from a brain haemorrhage at the age of only 32 has spoken of her remarkable recovery.

Rachael Underdown was warming-up on a treadmill at her local gym when she suddenly collapsed.

Within days she needed life-saving brain surgery, which had a 20% risk of leaving her brain damaged.

However, 15 months later she has not only survived the illness, which caused her to go blind in one eye, but she is also arranging a massive fundraising event so vital equipment can be bought to treat other people with the same diagnosis.


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Mrs Underdown, who lives in Fressingfield, said: "It was on a Tuesday at the beginning of February last year. It was just a normal day. I got up and took two of the children to school and one to nursery and went to Ufford Park gym.

"I was walking on the treadmill to warm up and talking to a friend and I went to run and I don't remember a lot from there.

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"I remember my friend calling me and I was at the bottom of the treadmill and couldn't move. I felt like I was 100 stone. My whole body went into shock and I slightly fitted as well.

"My friend screamed for paramedics to come. I was laid on my front with my body all twisted. The treadmill was still going and it had burnt all my face and my knees through my lycra leggings."

When paramedics arrived they immediately took Mrs Underdown to the Accident and Emergency department of Ipswich Hospital. Although she was conscious through the whole ambulance journey she was violently sick repeatedly.

Her husband Michael, 39, said: "When I first got the call saying 'come to hospital Rachael's had an accident' I thought she must have broken her leg or something.

"But when I arrived she was in a terrible state. She had a terrible headache and looked like death warmed up; she looked really ill."

At first doctors said there was nothing untoward and Mrs Underdown was suffering with concussion. However, an MRI scan showed a different prognosis.

Her husband said: "The doctor came back and said 'I really don't know how to tell you this but your wife has had a brain haemorrhage and we do not know whether she is going to live or die'.

"I went into auto-pilot. She was taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital in an ambulance and I followed. It had all happened in the space of about two hours so I just went into overdrive and probably shock."

Mrs Underdown, now 33, said: "I thought 'I am going to die'. I was so frightened but at the same time I felt so ill I just wanted to get help. Once they knew it was a brain haemorrhage I wasn't allowed to move.

"Your life does change in a moment. You don't know what's going to happen to you and you think 'if I don't get through this I'm not going to see my children anymore'."

When she arrived at the Cambridgeshire hospital she was immediately taken to the neuroscience critical care unit. The following day she had an angiogram, a special x-ray that involved inserting dye into the artery in her thigh to check the circulation of her blood. It showed that one of the blood vessels in her brain had burst.

Mr Underdown, joint managing director of Ipswich-based Ancient House Printing Group, said: "They said the upshot of it was that your wife either has brain surgery or the other alternative is to not have it and effectively she would die from not having the operation. But with having the operation there was a 20% chance of brain damage.

"There was no choice, she had to have the operation. I signed the consent form for Rachael but I couldn't even think about it.

"While this was going on the children didn't know anything about it. All they knew was that Mummy was in hospital with a bad head. I didn't want to tell them at that stage as I didn't know what the outcome was going to be."

Mrs Underdown had the operation on the Thursday, only two days after she collapsed. Because of complications, it took six-and-a-half hours instead of four.

Surgeons cut a hole into her skull about two inches wide and discovered that one of her blood vessels had burst and another had ballooned - an aneurysm. If the second had burst, she would have died.

After they sorted out the blood flow, her skull was stapled back together. She has been left with a scar running along her hairline from the top of her forehead to her left ear, as well as a scar on her neck where surgeons had to insert a tube to control the blood flow while they operated.

She was transferred to intensive care, where she was put on a ventilator. The next day they woke her up and Mrs Underdown's long recovery began.

She was put back on the neuroscience ward and within days she could stand up and talk. However, she never regained the sight in her left eye as the operation had starved the vessels of blood.

After two weeks she was allowed home and was tearfully reunited with her children, Hannah, now 10, Harriet, now eight, and Charlotte, now four. In the last fifteen months she has battled with overwhelming tiredness, migraines and short-term memory loss. She has also had to adjust to her blindness, which initially affected her balance.

Mr Underdown said: "That was really when the hard work started. People look at her and think she's a normal person and there's nothing wrong. It took about six to nine months to get back to some sort of normality. Even now, we still have good days and bad days."

"It's been a long haul and I couldn't have done it without the support of my friends and family," Mrs Underdown added.

She is now arranging a Miracle Ball at Wantisden Valley, near Woodbridge, to raise money for equipment for the neuroscience critical care unit where she was treated. She hopes it will raise £10,000 to £15,000 and has already received donations from Harrods, John Lewis and local companies.

She said: "I feel in myself that I need to move forward. I am incredibly lucky to be here and I feel that I would like to give something back."

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