Migraines turn out to be brain hernia

Published on: 24 Feb 2017

A DOWNEND man wants to raise awareness after his brain hernia was misdiagnosed as migraines for eight years.

Ashley Barrell, age 28, began experiencing severe head pain when he was 18. He was told by numerous GPs that the pain was a migraine, and a hospital scan near his childhood home in Exeter didn’t pick up anything abnormal.

It wasn’t until he went to A&E in Bristol nearly a decade later with a particularly severe headache that a scan revealed the underlying cause. A brain hernia meant the base of his brain was reaching down to his spinal cord – causing his pain, sickness and dizziness.

Arnold Chiari Malformation, known as CM, is a rare condition present from birth. Children may start getting symptoms such as headaches, pain, dizziness and nausea at a young age, or not until they are teenagers.

In December, Ashley underwent brain surgery at Southmead hospital to try and relieve pressure, and is now recovering at home with fiancee Jess, 28, while he waits to find out if the operation will reduce the pain.

He said: “I was perfectly fine, a very fit and healthy 18-year-old. I played lots of sports and I was living a typically normal life.

“Suddenly out of the blue I started to get these horrific pains like someone was stabbing me with a knife in my head. Once I walked across a road and I suddenly felt dizzy. My vision blurred, I collapsed and all I can remember was getting back up and the oncoming bus almost hitting me.

“Since being diagnosed I have to be on medication every day to keep the pain at bay.

“I really want to raise awareness so that people who may have been having similar symptoms, or parents who are worried about their child, voice their concerns with doctors, fight for a scan and get second opinions.”

The severity of the pain means Ashley was no longer able to work, and took volunatary redundancy from his job as a support worker at SGS college in Filton two years ago.

Once he recovers from his brain surgery he plans to start fundraising for CM’s dedicated charity, the Ann Conroy Trust, which provides support for sufferers and trains medical professionals to help with the condition.

 

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