Aisling O'Carroll began to experience frequent strong instances of déjà vu accompanied by nausea and ringing in her ears since she was in her early twenties. But she simply wrote it off to being ‘run down’ and it wasn’t until late 2015, at the age of 24, when she had a generalised seizure that she realised the serious nature of these episodes.
Before the generalised seizure, Aisling’s life revolved around music. She is a classically trained soprano and also plays the viola, violin, harp and piano. She was playing the piano when she noticed her hands shaking and her next memory was waking up on the floor in her teaching room.
Because Aisling had never suffered a major seizure before it was treated seriously, and she was brought to hospital by ambulance for an immediate CT scan which came back clear. However, following further testing the next day, Aisling was diagnosed with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.
Following her diagnosis, the team at Beaumont Hospital worked with Aisling to find a suitable treatment plan – something that can take a long time with epilepsy. In the weeks that followed, Aisling underwent numerous tests in Beaumont Hospital and in the Bons Secours Tralee. It was then found that Aisling had a cavernoma – a walnut-sized tangle of blood vessels in her brain. The treatment for this involved strong medication which Aisling found very hard on her energy levels and on her mood and yet she was still experiencing partial seizures. It was then that Aisling and the team in Beaumont Hospital decided that surgery was her best option.
Aisling underwent two surgeries. The first was a full craniotomy, and the second for a deep wound infection. Among Aisling’s biggest fears was the fact that the surgery was on her temporal lobe – the creative side of the brain – there was a risk that her natural musical flare or creativity would be compromised. However, immediately after waking from the surgery Aisling began to sing. She sang a few scales and was pitch perfect. This reassured Aisling that she was going to be fine and she is now two years seizure free.
Aisling is thanking Mr Stephen MacNally, Consultant Neurosurgeon.
“From the moment I had my initial consultation with Mr MacNally, he was just so kind and treated me incredibly well, almost like a family member. He explained everything so clearly, and went out of his way to make sure that I felt comfortable. With every follow up appointment, my trust in him grew exponentially and when you're going through the process of deciding whether or not to proceed with brain surgery, he was just the calming presence that I needed. His sense of humour helped a lot along the way too!”