A young businesswoman is sharing her stunning personal story after waking up with facial paralysis at the age of just 25 following brain tumour removal surgery.
Sammy Taylor, now 28, has her life back after becoming the UK’s first facial reanimation surgery patient.
The freelance health writer from Worcestershire endured brain surgery in 2019 to remove a pilocytic astrocytoma, a primary central nervous system (CNS) tumour.
Ms Taylor first realised there was a problem when she was just 14, when she suffered loss of balance and spinning vision. These symptoms turned out to be a brain tumour affecting her nervous system, but it wasn't diagnosed until 2013.
"I honestly think that because the doctors told me in 2013, that it wasn’t a 'nasty' brain tumour; that it was found by chance and would likely never change, I never really worried," she said.
"Those monthly vertigo episodes of extreme dizziness were sometimes petrifying and made me fearful of sleeping, but I knew they weren’t constants and would soon pass."
She ultimately went under the knife in a London hospital to remove the growth in 2019.
When Ms Taylor awoke from the surgery, she received the shocking news she had suffered a stroke that left her with facial paralysis down the right side of her face, balance issues and oscillopsia, the sensation that the world is always moving. The young woman had to relearn how to walk again, write again and even feed herself.
Surgery posed just 2 per cent risk of stroke
There was a two per cent risk of stroke on the consent form she signed but it was so rare with her type of surgery that no one really understood why it happened.
"I remember waking from surgery unable to see anything. My eyes were moving so much with the nystagmus, I couldn't focus my vision and I started to panic," she recalled.
"It was when I went to tell the nurses that something was wrong that I realised something had happened to my face too."
In 2020, she required corrective eye surgery for her double vision, followed by the first facial reanimation surgery in the UK, and only the third to be performed in the world in order to get her full facial expression back.
Sammy is now doing much better, she can feed herself again, walk unassisted and even run and paddleboard.
"Recovery was the most challenging part given that all of my best friends were buying their first homes or getting engaged and I was back living with my mum, learning to walk again and having daily physiotherapy," Ms Taylor said.
"I was like a child again - being fed and clothed in the early stages when I couldn’t stand or use my arm to do those things. And my progress was also painfully slow.
"It’s only when time had passed that I realised that the one per cent of small daily progress was adding up.
"I got out of the comparison trap of seeing and envying what others my age were doing on social media, and began focusing on my own path realising that everyone goes at their own pace in life."
While preparing for brain surgery in 2019, Ms Taylor decided to start her own business – Beauty in the Brain, creating meaningful products based on her tumultuous health journey.
"Knowing that most of our anxieties stem from the habitual feelings of worry and the irrational anticipation we have for threats and dangers, I knew I needed to switch my mindset and focus on the good things around me."
Her business produces stationary, jewellery and clothing with positive messages – something she believes can go along way in today's world.
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