“When my husband first complained of severe headaches nearly three years ago, we thought it was just one of those things…after all who doesn’t get a headache?” says Passion Iorun looking relaxed inside a private room at the Hospitals in Bangalore where her husband, 46-year-old Justin is recovering from brain surgery. “He anyway liked to fret about every small health issue” she says, referring somewhat indulgently to her husband’s habit of “rushing to doctors for every little reason.” However, unknown to her or to their three children, this time Justin was not over-reacting.
These were not just any normal headaches. “The pain was so terrible that at times I could barely even talk,” says Justin, recalling the days and months he spent in ‘hell’. “Soon he was in agony all the time,” adds Passion “forcing him to regularly skip and stay off work.” Then his vision started to blur and his nose, fingers and hands began to thicken. “I suddenly appeared to be bloating everywhere and could no longer fit into my clothes even as I battled my worsening headaches and declining vision.” Justin was not just getting bigger, he “was getting weaker all the time,” says Passion who hails from Benue State in Nigeria.
“Although”, as Dr N K Venkataramana Chief Neurosurgeon at BRAINS says, “these are classic symptoms of acromegaly, a hormonal disorder caused by excessive production of a growth hormone,” it took doctors in Iorun’s native Nigeria nearly two-and-half years to figure it out. “We spent many harrowing months going from one hospital to another eye hospital as doctors in Nigeria thought Justin was suffering from an ophthalmological problem,” says Passion. “It was believed to be glaucoma,” says Justin.
Finally, after nearly two years of chasing shadows, doctors at the ECWA Eye Hospital in Nigeria’s Kano state concluded that this was not an eye problem that they were looking at and Justin was probably down with ‘something far more serious.’ A brain scan soon after confirmed their fears: Justin was carrying a brain tumour, a growth that was pushing into pain-sensitive blood vessels inside the brain and causing his excruciating, ceaseless headaches. It was also affecting his vision and causing his pituitary glands to produce excessive amounts of growth hormones, which explained the thickening of his features. “Following the diagnosis, doctors in Nigeria told us that the tumour would have to be removed surgically, something that could not be done in the country.”
And then “a chance meeting with a former BRAINS patient at our family doctor’s clinic” turned despair to hope for the Ioruns. “The patient had recovered completely from a similar tumour of the brain after being treated at this hospital,” says Passion. “We got to know all about BRAINS, its wonderful team of doctors and facilities from him and decided to come here,” says Passion with a big, relieved smile. “It’s been three days since the surgery,” says Justin. “And there is no trace of the headaches that hounded me for so long– after many years I feel free and liberated, happy to be alive and looking forward to a new beginning all thanks to the doctors at this hospital.”
Says Dr. Venkataramana who tended to Justin with his team of doctors and later performed the surgery that has put him on the road to quick recovery: “When he came here Justin was clearly in serious trouble. However, we had already studied his reports and knew the background and were, therefore, ready with a plan to deal with his problem.” Justin went through his surgery within three days of arriving at BRAINS and will not be spending more than a week in the hospital in all. “I will be leaving for home in just a few days,” he says. “Ready to resume my life, with Passion and my children,” says Justin a lecturer in accountancy at the Benue State University, looking fondly at his wife who was once his student.