Tracey McMaster and her family are taking part in this weekend's Head Start 10k to say thanks to hospital staff that saved her life. Catherine Scott reports
In 2002 Tracey McMaster was rushed to hospital with a life-threatening build up of fluid on her brain.
The now 44-year-old from Sheffield had to have the fluid drained to relieve the pressure on her brain after she was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus which is a condition where there is an abnormal build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain.
“Apparently my first words when I came round after the surgery were ‘thank god that headaches gone’ and when the surgeon came to see me I couldn’t resist making a joke about how now at least I knew I had a brain up there," recalls Tracey.
“I kept thinking how lucky I was to still be here but I also thought – ‘why me?’
“I remember a few days after the surgery when the nurse took my bandage off and she asked if I would like to see my hair. I couldn’t believe that one side of my hair had been completely shaved off.
“It looked ridiculous but it’s a small price to pay. I decided to get sponsored to have the remaining hair shaved off and I donated the money to ward N2 at the hospital”.
“Since the first operation I’ve been in and out of hospital numerous times but it was my 5th spell in hospital which was the scariest for me. I had to have an operation which involved drilling a hole into my skull but it needed to be done with me awake. I was so unbelievably frightened.
“After they had monitored me post-surgery they didn’t understand why I was still getting headaches and the surgeon said it was down to me to fight as I couldn’t have further operations.
“I remember telling my mum that I’d had enough and I just wanted to die. I wanted mum to know it was my time to go and not to worry as I wouldn’t be in pain for much longer.
“Seeing how broken she was when I said that made me realise I had to fight, I had to do this!
“Thankfully the shunt which they had inserted started to work and I then went to rehabilitation at the Northern General for a month where I had to learn to build myself back up, I even had to learn to walk again and needed to prove I could look after myself. One month later I was sent home.”
From then on Tracey began to lead a normal life again, and the past nine years for Tracey have been great. She gave birth to her little boy Sam in 2011 and got married to her long term partner Roy in 2017.
Tracey added: “When I’m playing with my son, I have to remind him to be careful near my head and I still get pressure headaches from time to time. I can’t lay flat without going dizzy and I get short of breath quickly, but I’m here, I’m lucky and I’m appreciating life and living it to the fullest.
“I can never thank the staff at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals enough and as much as I know I’ll probably need more treatment, I know I’ll be in safe hands. And I’ll always have my rock, my mum.”
Team McMaster are taking part in the annual Head Start running race to raise vital funds for Neurocare and to help patients being treated in Sheffield for neurological conditions.
Retired Olympic Bobsledder Nicola Minichiello has become Neurocare’s newest ambassador in a bid to raise funds and awareness of head injuries in sport.
Nicola will be attending and speaking at the charity’s Head Start race this year as it marks its 10th Anniversary on Sunday 19 May.
Nicola said: “I’m backing Neurocare to help local patients being treated for neurological conditions as some of them could be a result of a head injury from sport. The incidences of head injuries both short and long term in sport are becoming more and more common. Both during my time as an athlete and now as a coach, I see that everyone taking part in sporting activities is only one unlucky moment away from being in a serious situation regarding their brains.
“But when you’re competing at the top of your game it isn’t something that you always take into consideration.. Regardless of whether it’s bobsleigh, cycling, boxing, football or a totally different sport, taking the correct precautions means you have less chance of a head injury. Hopefully through my association with Neurocare I will be able to raise the profile of some of these issues.
“Fortunately I’ve never had a head injury, however I know many friends and competitors who have had serious problems, causing them to miss major competitions or even forcing them to retire.
“Many of the problems we see are caused by repeated head trauma over a 6-12 month period which has not been addressed at the time and has led to longer term problems. With proper precautions and recovery these could have easily been prevented.
“I want to encourage everyone I know to take part in Head Start to raise awareness of Neurocare and hopefully to help raise a lot of money. Especially now I’m a parent and a Youth Olympic Coach, I want to do everything I can to raise awareness and prevent other people in the future having issues.”
To donate visit justgiving.com/fundraising/tracey-mcmaster
To support patients like Tracey and to take part in the 5 or 10k run on Sunday, 19 May at Rother Valley Country Park, visit https://www.neurocare.org.uk/event/head-start-5k-10k/