TURNING 40 is a milestone that many people dread but for Hannah Wilson it was the opportunity to make big
TURNING 40 is a milestone that many people dread but for Hannah Wilson it was the opportunity to make big changes and forget the recent past.
The PR consultant, of King’s Road, Henley, has undergone brain surgery twice in the last two years and says she is now ready to get her life back on track.
Ms Wilson, mother to Roman, eight, was devastated when she was diagnosed with mild epilepsy in 2009.
She recalled: “It all started when I was 24 and was salsa dancing with my boyfriend at the time. I fell backwards into a speaker and it knocked me out.
“Doctors picked up an abnormality when they did an MRI scan and put me on medication. I had experienced one or two fits before that but it was not picked up.”
From then on, appointments with neurologists became a regular occurrence.
“When making presentations I used to feel very giddy,” she said. “I never felt quite right but I ignored it.
“The doctors called the episodes ‘turns’. It is not a blackout or passing out, it is like concentrating on something else for a while then you come back. It is like an area of you disappears.
“I tried to ignore it and did not tell anyone what was happening. I suppose it was pig-headedness on my part but I did not want to give in to it.”
However, the turns got worse and more frequent, prompting her parents Sandra and Colin, from Bix, to intervene.
Ms Wilson said: “They thought I should pursue an avenue to see whether I could have a better quality of life. When you have been independent and career- driven, being told you cannot drive is hard.
“Epilepsy is the hardest word in the world to say. There is a storyline in Neighbours at the moment with the same thing and I find it quite difficult to watch.
In March 2011, it was agreed that Ms Wilson should have surgery on the right frontal lobe of her brain, a five-hour operation to remove the growth that was causing pressure to build up.
Although not necessary for the procedure, she decided to have her hair cut off beforehand. She recalled: “Before the surgery I nearly lost the plot emotionally. I was terrified and thought I wouldn’t wake up, which was horrific. I even said goodbye to Roman.
“But I was having between one and 10 turns a day and it was affecting my life.
“The doctors only ever give you between a 70 and 80 per cent chance of a cure but I have to say the surgeons at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford are amazing.
“They cut from one side of my head to the other but the scar is covered by my hair.”
Ms Wilson bounced back quickly from the operation.
“I will always remember that an hour after I had come round the surgeon came into my room and I was standing up,” she said. “He asked me what I was doing and I replied that I was trying to order a chicken curry. He said he had never known anyone to be up and wanting a chicken curry after brain surgery but the food there was so bad and I felt okay.
“The thing with brain surgery is that there is no bruising and it does not affect your muscles because they are not cut. It does not affect you in that way — it is the tiredness and the strange sensations in your body.
“At that stage they did not know if it had worked and told me that it would take up to six months.”
It was after her nine- month check-up that Ms Wilson had an MRI scan which showed a large amount of scarring and blood left in the area where the growth had been removed.
“It had not properly healed,” she said. “The turns were daily again, not to the same extent as before but they should have gone.
“The doctors have always put me down as being a bit of an enigma and say my case is quite a complex because they do not really know why it happened.
“That day with the surgeon was so awful. I was advised to have surgery all over again.”
In March last year, she underwent surgery for the second time. This time the operation lasted two hours.
Ms Wilson said: “It was part keyhole and part full surgery so less intrusive than the first operation.
“It was to remove the scar tissue and blood as they were creating the same pressure as the abnormality I had before.
“It was just as scary as the first time and emotionally it really screws you up. I thought I was going to die.
“I do remember the anaesthetist. I was so nervous and said that I thought I was going to pass out and that I did not think I could do it again. He said, ‘why don’t you look away and I will look away’, which made me laugh.
“I was back on my feet within a week and afterwards I went to France for a break. I just wanted to get away from everything.
“I remember sitting on the beach with Roman and I said, ‘Mummy feels like doing something crazy’ and I went and dyed my hair peroxide blonde, which took about five hours.
“You want to do things that you have never done and suddenly I felt really free. I also wanted to have a tattoo but Roman told me that I had always said he could not have one, so I could not really win that one.”
Ms Wilson says she is indebted to the people who helped her through the ordeal.
“The only way I have got through this is because of my family, particularly my parents,” she said.
“My mother has an unbelievable sense of humour and my Dad is always consistent. He is my rock. Nothing is ever a problem for him. They looked after Roman when I was in hospital and every time I have been unable to drive they have been there.
“Roman has been amazing, He has always known about everything and it is like he could sense when I was going to have a turn.
“My sister Jane has been brilliant, as have my brothers, Ben and Graeme.
“I also had unbelievable support from Karen Edwards, headteacher at Sacred Heart School, where Roman is a pupil.
“I bought heart necklaces for her and all my friends before I went in for surgery and she brought all the children in for a prayer on the day I went in.”
Ms Wilson, who has owned Creative PR for 10 years, is now focusing on rebuilding her business.
She said: “My aim is to grow the company and also to create something quite exciting.
“I have always done PR for fashion and beauty and I am now getting to the stage where I want to do something bigger, maybe managing individuals rather than companies. I am also starting to do personal styling. I am very determined and I think that is what has got me through.”
As for her health, she said: “In theory everything is fine, though I still have the occasional turn as a result of being stressed or upset, but it is manageable.
“I do want to know why I am on more medication now than I was before my operations and am seeking a second opinion.
“The whole problem with having a condition like this and being a people person is that you are worried that something is going to happen in front of someone and you cannot cover it up.
“All my good friends and best clients know and now I can just say that I need a couple of minutes.
“The worst thing of all is that I sometimes run out of energy, which is difficult when you have an eight-year-old.
“But I do not want to hide from what is going on any more. I used to be so successful and I want that again.
“I am on my own and I would like to make my company grow and also to meet someone again.”