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Student dices with death twice to remove ticking time-bomb tumours from her brain that could have exploded at any moment

A stunning student has dodged death twice to remove ticking time-bomb brain tumours that could have exploded at any moment.

The dangerous group of blood vessels could have exploded at any time - Maddy after treatment and now

The dangerous group of blood vessels could have exploded at any time – Maddy after treatment and now


Maddy Warner, 19, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, could have died without any warning due to an Arteriovenus Malformation (AVM) – a abnormal collection of blood vessels in the brain.

She was born with the deadly condition but was left undiagnosed until she suffered a mini-stroke on her birthday last year.

After being referred to neurologists, MRI scans confirmed she had also suffered a brain haemorrhage that was caused by a ping pong ball sized mass at the front of her brain.

Six months ago surgeons performed a complex operation to remove the tumours by cutting half of her head open before drilling out a part of her skull to extract the mass.

After a check-up scan, a further third of the AVM was discovered after it had been hidden by a bleed on the brain that happened weeks before the operation.

Two months ago she went under the knife again to remove another tumour, but has since made a full recovery.

Maddy, a student nurse, said: “Unknown to me I was born with a rare AVM that are a group of blood vessels in the brain that could have exploded causing a fatal bleed at any moment.

“It’s scary to think that I’ve been at risk of death for a long time without knowing, it was like having a ticking time bomb in my brain.

Maddy's brain scans show the AVM tumour

Maddy’s brain scans show the AVM tumour


“I consider myself very lucky – many people are killed by this condition and it can strike at any moment.

“The first symptom I recognised was on my 19th birthday, I woke up with a splitting headache, like someone had hit me with a baseball bat and a numb pain down my one side.

“I thought I was just overreacting because I was used to seeing worrying symptoms as a student nurse so I took two paracetamol and went back to bed.

“But when my symptons persisted, I was taken to hospital but doctors were baffled.

“It wasn’t until a few weeks later after being referred to a neurologist that they told me that I’d suffered a mini stroke and a bleed on the brain, which was caused by the AVM.

“I was shocked looking at the screen, the mass looked pretty massive and was around the size of a ping pong ball.

“I knew I needed to sort it out immediately as once you have your first bleed on the brain your odds of having another one significantly increased.

“You never expect to have a mini stroke at 19, when I told people they didn’t believe me.

“I was given two treatment options – radiotherapy that could take up to four years to work or an operation to remove it immediately that on a worst case scenario could leave me paralysed, brain damaged or at worst dead.

Maddy in recovery after her operations

Maddy in recovery after her operations


“I opted for surgery where they would have to peel the skin back on my skull, take a chunk of bone out the size of a tennis ball to remove the AVM before screwing the bone back into place.

“My face was really bruised from the surgery, it had swollen quite considerably – I had 30 staples in my head and within 24 hours it looked like I’d been beaten up.

“When I was told that there was still a third left of the tumour inside my brain I was devastated, I never for one minute thought there would more of it left behind.

“But now thankfully it’s all over and I have the all clear, plus my scar has healed very well and I only have a faint white line that will be covered by my hair now.

“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, but I’m out the other end of it now, it’s really been a crazy year.”

Weeks before having surgery to remove her AVM in October last year, Maddy suffered a further bleed on the brain which hospitalised her until surgery – there is a 15-20% risk of death or a stroke from each haemorrhage.

Maddy said: “After I found out about my AVM I put my life completely on hold, I dropped out of university and didn’t go out very much because I didn’t want to risk another bleed on the brain.

“As soon as I was woken-up by the same feeling as the mini stroke I felt before I knew I had to get to hospital straight away, this bleed was much bigger than the other one and pretty dangerous.

Maddy with her family

Maddy with her family


“Because I had another brain trauma surgeons couldn’t remove all the AVM from my first operation – unknown to them the scar tissue had formed a shield around the final third of the mass.

“Thankfully they’ve since removed it all and I can go back to leading a normal life – I can’t thank my family, friends and boyfriend enough for all of their support.”

Two operations later and Maddy has made a full recovery, she now intends to return to university to complete her training to become a nurse.

She has praised the thorough work by the Bristol Southmead hospital team that has led to her return to her normal life.

Less than 1% of the population are affected by AVMs – one symptom, bleeding on the brain carries a 50% risk of leaving the sufferer permanently disabled.

Mr Richard Nelson, consultant neurosurgeon who operated on her, said: “AVMs give a significant cause of brain haemorrhage in children and adults.

“Often ‘silent’ they can cause sudden haemorrhages that can be devastating or life threatening.

“Maddy’s first surgery went well, lasting eight hours, but a follow up angiogram showed a small amount of residual AVM that was hidden in scar tissue on the edge of a blood clot cavity.

“The second op was to remove the residual AVM and after surgery the angiogram came back clear meaning that Maddy has been cured and allowing her to get on with her life.

“Myself and the full team at Southmead wish her the very best for the future.”


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