A mum has told how her pregnancy fed a hidden brain tumour – that made her go BLIND at the wheel of her car.
Emma Bullin, 40, was driving on the M1 at 60mph when her eyes “fuzzed over” and doctors initially told her it was “pregnancy related”.
Her daughter Paige was born eight weeks later, but when Emma’s eyesight failed to improve tests revealed an enormous benign tumour at the base of her brain.
It had been there for 18 years – but had grown to the size of a grapefruit due to a surge in pregnancy hormones.
But Emma believes that Paige actually saved her life by being born a month early – allowing doctors to find the tumour before it was too late.
Emma, from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, never regained her sight – so has never seen her daughter.
“If she had been born full term I would not have lived,” she said. “I would not have had the surgery I needed to survive.
“It was growing at such a rate it would have killed me before they got to it.
“She saved my life because she helped find the tumour by coming early.
“We have a really close bond because we were both getting to grips with things at the same time. I was learning to get around at the same time as she was, as a baby.
“It was horrible of course – I have never seen her. On the positive side, I say to her that she’s the most stunning girl, and she always will be.”
Emma was following her husband Peter, 46, in her Nissan Micra on the M1 in September 2003, when she went totally blind in her right eye, and lost nearly all her vision in her left.
She slowed down and pulled into the hard shoulder, and her husband pulled in too.
“Suddenly everything went fuzzy and I realised I couldn’t see anything,” she said.
“It wasn’t complete blackness – it was fuzzy.
“It was like when you first wake up in the morning and everything is fuzzy and you can’t see, before you rub your eyes.
“It was like a fog right in front of me. I couldn’t see anything clearly.
“Thankfully it was an automatic car and I pulled the car over and stopped on the hard shoulder.
“It was absolutely terrifying. There were so many thoughts going through my head.
“I was thinking ‘what’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with my baby? Will it stay like this?’
“It was the last time I saw clearly.”
They drove to an optician who said he could “see something behind your eye” but said it was likely due to her pregnancy.
A week later she had a midwife appointment where she was told “these things happen all the time when women are pregnant”.
She recalled: “I thought it was odd. I had never heard of pregnant women going blind, but you just take their word for it.”
Her daughter, now 15, was in breech position and Emma was hospitalised with pre-eclampsia and bells palsy.
She still couldn’t see, but said medics didn’t want to do an MRI scan to investigate further, before the baby was born.
“That night she listened to me,” said Emma.
“I looked at my bump and said ‘mummy’s really poorly now and if you come now you will be absolutely fine, but mummy is quite poorly and needs you out so I can get some help’.
“The next day at 7am I went into natural labour.”
Paige was born on October 7, 2003, a month early, weighing 4lb 13oz, and contrary to earlier predictions, Emma’s sight didn’t come back.
An MRI scan revealed she had “lesions on the brain”.
She said: “We weren’t experts so I thought lesion meant cut.
“I was thinking to myself ‘how have I cut my brain?’
“It was only when my mum walked past the midwifes’ office and heard them talking about the ‘poor girl with the brain tumour’ that she realised it was me.
“I had the tumour before and when I was pregnant it was like ‘woopee’ because of the oestrogen and grew loads.”
She had a crainiotomy to give her brain room to swell, and the tumour was removed, but she was kept in a coma for several days.
“My mum brought up my daughter for those first few months, as my husband had to go back to work,” said Emma, who was able to go home around three months later, on Christmas Eve.
“She would bring her in and lay her on my chest and it was the time when my daughter would sleep most soundly.
“I had to get used to this new life – both as a mother and as a blind person.”
Emma began a degree in English Literature a month later and had radiotherapy to shrink a second inoperable tumour, before also completing a PGCE and is now studying for her masters.
She said she has struggled to find full time work due to her disability, despite applying for hundreds of jobs over the years, and she dreams of become a teacher.
But she reckons being blind has made her a “better mum”.
She said: “I suppose you could say because of it I became a bit obsessive.
“I was so worried that someone would think I was going to be a bad mum.
“I never had a brand new baby. When she was new my mum was looking after her and by the time I got home, she was already holding her head up on her own.
“She never once had cradle cap or nappy rash, because I was so obsessed with getting things right.
“She was 100% my priority and always will be. I know that’s the same for most mums.
“In a way being blind made me a better mum, and better in the day to day taking care of a new born, because I was so obsessed with not being accused of getting it wrong.”
“I never wanted to tumour to define me and I knew I wanted to be a good mum.”