In 2016, I received a moderate brain injury from a tropical illness received via Sri Lankan bug bites. I was delirious, feverish and hallucinating with a poker like pain stabbing through my brain after a week of arriving back in the UK.
After numerous antibiotics, blood tests, cultures, lumbar punctures and CT scans showing my swollen and damaged brain, the Microbiologist decided they couldn’t work out what had caused it. Possibly because they’d already accidentally killed what they were trying to grow with the antibiotics, but also perhaps it was ‘just a viral meningitis’ and that I’d be fine to go and recover at home on my own. Three weeks later I was rushed back in by ambulance having suffered 3 mini-strokes, losing strength through my left side, suffering searing headaches, visual problems, hearing issues, loss of speech, memory and balance. It was then that the eventual diagnosis of meningo-encephalitis with a moderate brain injury was given from an unknown tropical illness.
Then came my first major crossroads; on being offered steroids, nerve blockers and sedatives, because they’d ‘make me feel better’ but they couldn’t explain why (I’m grateful for an honest Microbiologist rather than an omniscient Specialist), I decided to refuse all further medications unless there was sound clinical reasoning behind it. Once stable enough to return home, I gradually built up my memory with reading and meditation (enough to string a sentence together without forgetting where I’d started!), challenged my balance, and practised walking and then yoga for gentle achievable goals and to start the process of calming down my nervous system. I had whole body spasms that would stop me dead and leave me spasming uncontrollably, it was very scary but there was only one way, and that was forward. I couldn’t work for 6 months which stopped me travelling the world as a private Physio for some of the best tennis players in the world, so I had to concentrate on myself for a change! Which was when I met Mark…
Even though I’d been teaching yoga for years, this experience showed me how important my yoga practice was for neuroplasticity, movement pattern development and for the rhythmic breathing that sends you into a meditative state, taking you away from your heightened stress response. (Read our article on stress for more on this). I’d spent so long living at a million miles per hour and travelling through time zones, sometimes working 20 hour days in my hugely physical job as a Sports Physio, working with the world’s best athletes, that I’d forgotten how to take stock and pause.
Eating a mostly vegan and fish diet to reduce the inflammation in my brain, I decided to enrol on a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapy course to challenge my brain into remembering and learning more to initially assist my own personal journey. I now love combining my skills and take great pleasure in helping others before they reach this stage, just one mosquito bite away from their whole world crashing down too. I love piecing together blood results and scans, symptoms and individual circumstances to figure out what’s been missed. Understanding how the delicate physiology of the body can be fine-tuned to go from sub par, fatigued and low to feeling robust and full of energy. Looking at the whole person, the natural resources and knowledge we have available from all corners of the world, and a vast body of scientific research to underpin it. Thank goodness for my brain injury to help teach me how to help you better.