Visit to Wessex Neurological Centre, Southampton
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As a new trustee of Smile4Wessex charity, I was delighted last week to be invited by my fellow trustee Mr Diederik Bulters, a Consultant Neuro Surgeon, to meet the team at the Wessex Neurological Centre. I was even more thrilled to be able to actually watch Diederik and his team in action, and see the equipment that the charity has funded in use.
I was surprised by the number of people involved in the whole process. Everyone had their part to play and did so with professionalism and efficiency.
The particular procedure that I was able to see in action was to treat a patient who suffered from Trigeminal Neuralgia - neuropathic facial pain. It was explained to me that this is the most excruciating type of pain possible, and that there is a very high rate of suicide amongst sufferers who simply cannot live with it. Even the wind blowing across your face can set off the pain, which might last for a few seconds or several minutes. This patient had been unable to eat or speak due to the pain.
The pain was caused by a blood vessel touching one of the nerves inside the brain. The procedure involved placing a piece of felt-like material between the blood vessel and the nerve. But before that, the surgeon had to find his way into the right part of the brain and find the nerve in question. The MRI scan which helps guide the surgeon, only shows part of the picture, he can never know exactly what he will find until he gets there.
The first task in the operating theatre was to get the patient into the right position. This patient needed to be laid on his left side. This type of procedure can take many hours and a considerable amount of time was spent making sure that the patient was properly supported, with padding in place to prevent pressure sores. From the outset, the attention to detail was clear.
Once the surgery started, I was lucky enough to be standing right behind the surgeons and able to see what was happening right from the first incision. Thankfully there was no feeling at any point that I would embarrass myself by passing out!
The surgeon then slowly and intricately made his way through the brain, ensuring that he did not cause any damage as he went, and avoiding all the obstacles in his path.
Once he had made sufficient progress, the microscope came into play. That is one of the pieces of equipment, which Smile4Wessex have funded, so it was great to see it in action. The magnification was incredible and we could all see the actual nerve in question on the monitor, and the blood vessel that had been causing the problems. A tiny piece of material was placed between the two, and the procedure was completed. It sounds so simple! The wound was sealed and stitched – 3 hours after it had started.
The team then had a well-deserved break including a very odd coloured birthday cake made with yams! After a quick bite to eat, I was taken on a tour of the Centre, including the specialist Paediatric Neurological Unit and was able to see for myself the other equipment funded by the charity.
I am relieved and very pleased to have since found out that the surgery was a complete success, the patient is now pain free and able to speak and eat.
I am so grateful to everyone involved for making me feel so welcome. As a personal injury lawyer, I've seen the impact of serious brain and spinal injuries so it was incredible to see first-hand the kind of amazing work and advances in medicine that neurology centres like Wessex are making. All in all, an awe-inspiring day that I was privileged to have enjoyed.
To find out more about the excellent work that Smile4Wessex do to support the Wessex Neurological Centre and to read more about their history and the differences they have made through their fundraising efforts, take a look at their website - http://www.smile4wessex.org/ and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
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