Pregnancy hormones fed tennis ball-sized tumor in mom’s brain, report says
A mom was almost killed by her unborn baby when her pregnancy hormones fed a tennis ball-sized brain tumor, before it was removed on the day she gave birth.
Shurelle Harrington was 33 weeks pregnant with daughter Katie when she went blind in her right eye and stared projectile vomiting.
The 33-year-old was rushed to hospital, where a life-threatening “tennis ball-size” meningioma tumor was discovered on her brain.
Doctors told her the pregnancy hormones were speeding up the growth of the tumor which could kill her if she did not have it removed immediately.
On January 20, 2014, she was given a general anaesthetic and underwent an 11-hour operation to save both her and her unborn child’s life.
Surgeons at Nottingham City Hospital first delivered Katie by caesarean section before partially removing the 3-inch wide tumor – a procedure known as debulking.
The double operation was successful in restoring Harrington’s vision, and baby Katie was was born weighing 5-lbs., 17-oz.
“I was 33 weeks pregnant with Katie when I first started to have some odd symptoms,” Harrington, who lives with her husband, Peter, in Borrowash, Derbyshire, said. “I lost vision in my right eye, and started to feel extremely sick and under the weather.”
“At first I thought it might have just been something to do with the pregnancy, but as the sickness got worse and worse, I started to worry that there might be something wrong,” she said. “I wanted to get it checked out, especially as Katie was so close. I went to the maternity ward at Royal Derby Hospital, and they did some scans and discovered the tumor.
“They were very concerned, and as there was no neurology department, I had to be transferred over to Nottingham for further tests,” Harrington said. “A couple of days later, they ran some tests there and found that it was the size of a tennis ball, and was what they called a meningioma.”
“It had obviously applied pressure to the optic nerve, and that was why I was unable to see through the right eye,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it, and was very worried. There were a lot of sleepless nights. The doctors were concerned, and the fear was that I might have a seizure or something during pregnancy.”
“I was also told that the hormones that were in my body from the pregnancy were making the tumor grow faster, so it needed to be operated on as soon as possible to reduce its size,” she said. “I was told by the doctors that, because the pregnancy was so far gone, she would have to be removed from my body before I could have the operation. So it was a case of the pregnancy and this major brain operation both coinciding.”
“It was such a stressful few days in the lead up to it, especially as the doctors claimed that I was first priority, rather than Katie,” Harrington said. “That was my fear – that I would wake up to find out that I didn’t have a daughter.”
“They put me out for 11 hours. Peter was at the hospital, and I can’t imagine what was going through his mind,” she said. “He was facing potentially losing one or his wife or his daughter, or even both, so it must have been an agonizing wait. Thankfully everything worked out OK in the end – the operation was successful, I could see again, and I was able to see Katie for the first time the next day.”
Despite the success of the operation, in July 2015, doctors told Harrington the tumor had grown back, alongside two smaller ones.
Although a further operation was done to reduce the size of the original tumor – which Harrington nicknamed ‘Brian’ – the other two were too small to be removed.
Last June she was taken to hospital in Sheffield for stereotactic radiotherapy to stop the tumors from growing, but she was devastated when a further three were found.
“Having a biopsy to remove them was considered, but the five tumors are so small that it makes them tricky to remove, and there are all sorts of risks associated with going into my head,” she said. “I do suffer from some symptoms, predominately in my right eye. Thankfully my left eye compensates for it, so that my vision is still fine.”
“I often get headaches, and once a month or so I’ll get these really severe migraines, which keep me out of action for a few days at a time,” she said. “Of course I do have fears about what might happen to me in the future, but you’ve got to live for the moment. Right now, I’m as healthy as I can be, and am extremely happy.”
“My main concern at the moment is for my daughter,” she said. “As yet they have not been able to what’s causing me to have the tumors, but I do fear that it could be hereditary.”