A young woman who had a terrifying seizure during her shift serving and taking orders at a McDonald’s drive-thru attributed it to a ‘bad hangover’ after a night out to find out she had a tumor benign brain.
Danielle Freeman, 23, had enjoyed a number of beers and spirits with friends from the gym where she also worked in the summer of 2019, meeting up at a nightclub.
When she woke up feeling rough, she assumed she’d had too much to drink and went to work at the fast food joint, only to have a two-minute meltdown.
Now a personal trainer and educator, Danielle, who lives in Portree on the Isle of Skye with her lifeguard boyfriend Connor, 26, said: ‘I was on the headset while driving and suddenly made a noise of cry.
“I don’t remember any of this, but my boyfriend and roommate both worked at McDonald’s with me and came rushing over.”
She continued, “My roommate saw me first. He saw me scream and thought I saw a fly because I hate bugs. But then I slowly started falling to the ground and a manager grabbed me.
“I know now that it was a grand mal seizure, a seizure that causes loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions, and which lasted for more than two minutes. I then passed out for five more.
“When I woke up there was a paramedic, my boyfriend and my manager standing over me and I had no idea what was going on. I felt so dizzy.
So disoriented that she couldn’t find the words to tell the paramedic her name or where she was, Danielle was rushed to hospital, where she was observed for several hours before being referred for a MRI appointment, which took several months to arrive.
Meanwhile, Danielle says she was warned by doctors against too many parties.
She said: ‘I was told I was probably drinking too much.
“I was told to only take three or four glasses if I went out and to space them out with glasses of water.
“I felt really bad – like it was my fault.”
When she was invited to another party with colleagues in December 2019, she followed doctors’ orders to the letter, limiting herself to a small number of single-dose glasses and drinking glasses of water between drinks. ‘alcohol.
But the next morning she woke up to find her worried boyfriend telling her she had just suffered another seizure in her sleep.
She said: “Compared to the first crisis, I really didn’t feel anything. I just felt like I woke up from normal sleep.
“I felt tired from the evening, but immediately stopped drinking after that.”
Looking back, Danielle now realizes she started showing symptoms that something was wrong in 2018, when she suddenly developed exhausting fatigue that she couldn’t change.
Still a teenager, as she enjoyed a few nights out, she focused on herself to fulfill her dream of becoming a personal trainer and worked hard to maintain her health.
Feeling ‘mentally and physically drained’ without explanation, she said: ‘My workouts started to slip because I was so tired all the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the energy. was so exhausted.
She added: “I couldn’t get out of bed to do things.
“My boss at the gym suggested I had depression, but I knew that wasn’t it. I was just dead tired and looked depressed because I was so frustrated with what I felt.
But it wasn’t until 2020, when she received her MRI results in a letter, that the true cause of her fatigue and seizures was revealed,
She said: ‘I received a letter saying there was a benign mass on my right temporal lobe.
“Because it was mild, I wasn’t as worried as I could have been.”
She continued, “But knowing there was something in my brain that shouldn’t be there was awful.”
During a follow-up appointment, Danielle learned that the CT scan had detected a pea-sized mass in her brain that could have been there for seven years.
This explained her fatigue and the doctors reassured her that it was not her fault and had nothing to do with her lifestyle.
She said: “A consultant explained to me that my brain couldn’t process the hangover because of the tumour, but having had a few drinks in the evening was not the cause.
“They gave me the option of having immediate surgery or just watching and waiting, with regular scans checking for the tumour, so I decided to wait.”
Warned that the tumor might not grow for several years, Danielle managed her symptoms with daily anti-epileptic medication, also cutting out alcohol and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
While her seizures stopped as she no longer drank alcohol, a scan in late 2020 revealed the tumor was growing.
She said: ‘The tumor had grown very slightly, but it scared me. That’s when I was officially diagnosed with a grade 2 brain tumour.
“And I agreed to have surgery to remove it.”
Initially deemed non-urgent, Danielle’s case worsened when her sight became blurry in January 2021, due to pressure from the tumor on her brain.
Traveling to hospital alone due to Covid restrictions, she was admitted to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for the five-hour procedure to remove the tumor in April 2021.
Ironically, after months of worrying that her nights out were to blame for her problems, she was reassured by her neurosurgeon that her ‘healthy lifestyle’ meant she had the best chance of a good recovery. .
Discharged after three days instead of the usual week or two because she rebounded so quickly, she then had six weeks of radiotherapy and has been on chemotherapy since last August, which will end next month.
She said: “My energy levels are so much better now. I train up to five days a week. The chemotherapy can make me tired, but I feel so much better.
“I can even have a few drinks now, but I just have to make sure I take my seizure meds.”
With her treatment nearing completion, Danielle is now helping to promote The Brain Tumor Charity’s Better Safe Than Tumor campaign, which launched this week.
It aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumors which, in adults, include persistent and severe headaches, vision changes, seizures, balance problems or dizziness, memory problems, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, slurred speech, and numbness or tingling in the extremities.
It also emphasizes the importance of linking symptoms.
Danielle said: “For me, more awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumors would have stopped me from blaming myself so much.
“I also would have known not to ignore the symptoms and instead push for answers and even suggest being sent for an MRI when I started to suffer from fatigue.”
She added: “This campaign will really help people with symptoms to ask more questions and understand what might be happening to them.
“In turn, this could lead to very important early diagnosis that could save lives.”
* For more information, visit https://www.headsmart.org.uk/