Wakefield woman takes on charity hike after brain tumour surgery put her in a coma

Less than two years on from a brain tumour operation that led her to be in coma, Wakefield's Karen Roberts is taking on the hike of a lifetime.

By Leanne Clarke
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 11:37 am
Updated Thursday, 9th June 2022, 11:39 am

Karen, 48, is taking on a coastal walking challenge,The North Yorkshire Coastal Ramble, on September 10, a walk along the Cinder Track from Scarborough to Whitby.

Karen will be taking on a section of the route, while her husband Paul aims to walk the full 21.5 miles to raise as much funds as possible for Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity.

The walk will mark 22 months from Karen’s initial diagnosis, and 17 months following her operation.

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Karen, husband Paul and daughters Amy and Holly,

Karen’s brain tumour was found in November 2020, after her family grew concerned about the migraines she had been having for 20 years and a GP referred her for an MRI. The migraines were not actually connected to the tumour.

Karen said: “It was an incredibly lucky time to have the MRI, or my tumour would likely not have been found.

“No one could quite believe I was walking around with this very large tumour in my head.”

Karen was referred to Leeds General Infirmary in early January 2021, where she was told the tumour needed operating on immediately.

Karen's surgery lasted 15 hours.

“I was asked if I wanted time to think about it, but I said no, we just have to get on with it.

"I went into hospital on February 8 for the embolisation. I said goodbye to my husband Paul and two daughters, Amy and Holly, at the entrance to LGI, and I don’t remember anything else until sometime after February 24 when I started to wake up from the coma.”

The surgery, which lasted around 15 hours, went as well as could be hoped and removed over 50 per cent of the tumour. However, as she was being turned over from the surgery, Karen suffered a pulmonary embolism leading to a heart attack.

Her heart stopped beating for 15 minutes and she was left in a coma.

Surgeons removed over 50 per cent of the tumour.

After around two weeks, Karen came around.

“I was on a ventilator and had a tracheotomy so couldn’t speak, eat or drink. It was during Covid so no visitors were allowed. A few video calls were kindly arranged so I could see my family.

"I had two amazing visits outside the hospital, and I am so grateful to Dawn, the Ward Manager for making these happen.”

Karen had severe chest infections which delayed her physiotherapy, but eventually she started getting up in her chair and began physio.

“I was so determined to get out of bed, however much pain I was in,” Karen said.

She was in hospital for just under three months in total, and surprised her family by asking to come home instead of being sent to a rehabilitation facility.

Karen’s husband Paul and their friends configured the downstairs office into a bedroom.

“I can’t describe the feeling when I came in through the front door to my wonderful family. Two days later I started walking without my walker, then ventured outside the front door, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Karen is now registered as partially sighted and has lost her peripheral vision in both eyes to the left.

She also deals with mobility issues and still needs physiotherapy.

She said “I found counselling through YBTC really helpful to come to terms with things, mainly not being able to drive anymore. It was a chance to talk openly about how we felt in a way you don’t always want to say to people you love for fear of upsetting them.”

Not wanting to let her mobility difficulties stop her, in September Karen has decided to take on the charity’s North Yorkshire Coastal Ramble challenge with her husband, marking almost two years since her initial diagnosis.

To support Karen’s fundraising efforts, go to http://www.justgiving.com/karen-Roberts89Walkers of all ages and abilities are welcome to join Karen for the walking challenge on September 10 and can choose to take part in the whole trek from Scarborough to Whitby or just a section of the route.

To find out more go to yorksbtc.org.uk/ramble