A woman who woke up from brain tumour surgery during the June 2020 lockdown has revealed she lost all memory of the previous seven months, including the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
When Karen Eggleston finally awoke in King’s College Hospital, London, she was shocked find she had a completely shaved head and asked why doctors were rushing over to her with swabs and masks.
The 50-year-old consultant, originally from Westerham in Kent, had suffered a seizure at home and went into cardiac arrest in June 2020, flatlining for 10 minutes.
After completing brain scans to check the cause of her medical episode, it was discovered that she had a brain tumour.
She spent a week in a coma after doctors worked to remove a grade one olfactory groove meningioma – a benign growth in the cranial cavity between the brow and nose – which needed surgery to remove.
But when she finally came-to, her last memory was of an argument with her then partner of 10 years during November 2019 – leaving her mind completely blank of the turmoil of the start of Covid, lockdowns and Britain’s winter election in 2019.
She likened her experience to the start of a ‘John Wyndham science-fiction novel’, having felt like she was dropped into the middle of a pandemic she ‘knew nothing about’.
When Karen Eggleston (left) finally awoke in King’s College Hospital, London, she was shocked find she had a completely shaved head and asked why doctors were rushing over to her with swabs and masks
The 50-year-old consultant, originally from Westerham in Kent, had suffered a seizure at home and went into cardiac arrest in June 2020, flatlining for 10 minutes. She spent a week in a coma after doctors worked to remove a grade one olfactory groove meningioma – a benign growth in the cranial cavity between the brow and nose – which needed surgery to remove
When Ms Eggleston awoke a week after having a craniotomy, she had no memory of the seven months leading up to her collapse, including the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said: ‘In early November 2019 I remember going to bed not feeling very well after having had an argument with my then partner of 10 years and was roused by a voice saying: “Take it easy, you’ve had a head trauma”.
‘To my surprise it was 10 June 2020.
‘I was in Kings College Hospital, London, and really didn’t know what was going on. My eyesight had been affected and I was struggling to see and finding everything really confusing.
‘I had a complete memory blank of the previous seven months, no recollection at all.
‘It was like waking up at the start of a John Wyndham novel in the middle of a pandemic I knew nothing about, with everyone coming at me with swab sticks and wearing masks, and my head completely shaved having previously had really long hair.’
The organisational development consultant, from Westerham, Kent, also found herself completely blind in her left eye, visually impaired in her right eye, suffering confusion and hallucinations and restrained for her own safety.
She said: ‘People refer to life events as feeling like they’ve had the carpet ripped out from under them; well, I’d lost the carpet, the floor and everything else beneath me.’
As well as coping with her new physical limitations, Karen, a mum-of-one, also had to deal with the fallout from the personality changes she had experienced before the discovery of her tumour, including the breakdown of her relationship.
She said: ‘My biggest heartbreak was finding out my fiancé didn’t even want to talk to me.
‘It’s a shock because my behaviour came out of the blue but I’ve had to go through the grief of a relationship break-up as well as everything else, without knowing what happened.
‘The personality change and how it’s impacted my life is hard to accept; all I can do is say I’m sorry for my behaviour during that time and explain that it wasn’t me, it was my brain tumour.’
She likened her experience to the start of a ‘John Wyndham science-fiction novel’, having felt like she was dropped into the middle of a pandemic she ‘knew nothing about’. Pictured: Ms Eggleston pictured today outside hospital
Although part of her tumour had to be left in, it is thought that removing the rest of it cut off its blood supply and, with the three radiotherapy sessions she had after, it seems to have disappeared, with the news that she was ‘all-clear’ coming just before Christmas.
Now with annual scans to stay on top of her health and having returned to full-time employment, Karen has turned her attention to helping others and is working with Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness of the disease that ripped her life apart.
She said: ‘I want to do what I can to help raise awareness of brain tumours as well as raise funds towards researching the disease so fewer people will have to face having their lives turned upside down, like mine.’
Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: ‘Karen went through a terrible ordeal leading up to the discovery of her brain tumour and has had to make a lot of adjustments since but continues to show great resilience and determination.
‘We welcome her support and look forward to her involvement in future fundraisers as we continue to fund vital research into brain tumours.’