Introduction to Anthony Wright – medical trauma Q&A
You’ve had a string of dramatic health setbacks. What were you doing with your life when you first became unwell? Please detail what happened next and when? (Brain tumour/ fifteen operations/comatose)
I was an international sales manager travelling all over the UK and Europe. In 2005 I was nearly blinded by a Brain (4.5 cm) tumour, but I was lucky.
I was attending a routine hospital appointment (for hearing) when I had a `local` blackout, the second in two days. I was now sure something was wrong and so deliberately faked (i.e. lied) the tests in the hospital which led directly to an emergency MRI next day. It revealed a 4.5cms tumour now in advance stages. While waiting for follow up appointments I noticed further issues and checking on line spotted that I would soon be blind. Next day my Doctor listened (phew) and confirmed the diagnosis. The issue – Papilledema is very rare, just 4 cases in the EU area in a year, but it will blind just the same. At odds of one in a hundred million against; me, a layman had called it right. Incredibly, this was just chapter one
In 2006 during the main Op to tackle tumour, there were complications. Each OP then led to another 24hours later – these are 12-16 hour operations. Overall there were four Ops in five days, in the process I lost a hearing, facial, balance nerves and was left in a coma. I lost the ability to walk, to talk properly and was left dyslexic, brain damaged. I was down about 5 stone in 8 weeks and needed to sleep 2-3 hours most days just to get by.
I set out on a journey of recovery it was two years of physical exercises before I could walk properly and another two before I could run. To get my brain back to its preoperative state took about five years of conscious brain exercises. During this time my face was surgically rebuilt, other tumours removed or irradiated and my body returned to normal.
I am now a public speaker trainer and author
Is it true you also died on the operating table? What happened? How long were you technically dead for? were doctors/family surprised when you came back to life?
I think I was only out for a short while; with the brain stem compression being the most likely cause. It was the Post-Operative swelling that was always a grave concern and ultimately left me brain damaged. In many ways I was very lucky, no one in the surgical team thought I was going to survive and had indicated to my wife that this would be the last operation; there was no chance to survive another.
What were the neurological effects of all this physical trauma?
There were about 101 effects from the operations. The balance system was ruined (so even walking was impossible) plus slowed dyslexic speech with short term memory issues. Hand to eye coordination was much impaired, I was always dropping things while my English and Maths skills were reduced by 30 years.
The sequential part of the brain was damaged – so the natural order was wrong. I might try to make tea, with cold water – or make a phone call, without lifting the handset. Simple tasks took forever and totally exhausted me. No stamina for either physical or mental tasks.
Brain fatigue meant that I often slept 2 to 3 hours per day just to get through. Decision making was poor as was emotional balance; the mood swings were almost bi-polar in nature. Head injury depression has to be seen to be believed – it is virtually immune to drug treatment and often is a lifetime condition
What were the physical effects of this?
I had a month in a wheelchair, learning to walk; two years exercises before walking normally and another two before I could run. Falls were very frequent in the early days and even simple tasks were very slow and complex. Confidence was shattered and I tended to avoid public places. My face had collapsed one side so I did not look well at all. Overtime it was surgically rebuilt, some 5-6 operations overall.
When did you first regain consciousness? What was it like? What thoughts and feelings did you experience?
I was in and out of consciousness for a couple weeks. It was a strange alien world (I was suffering from paranoid delusions from all the drugs; I thought the staff were trying to kill me.)
Did you always believe that you would recover? What troubles, doubts and fears did you have?
I had no concept how badly damaged I was and just wanted to get on with it. Time and again I was caught making escape attempts there were perhaps half a dozen occasions; I wanted to go home. One time an off duty nurse caught me outside the hospital in a local pub settling down to a drink and a snack.
When I discovered that the recovery would take another year or more (further tumours discovered or further treatment required?) My motto at this time always was: “Recovery is a journey of 1000 steps” and so it was…..
Overall it was 15 operations, two radiotherapy sessions about and 100 stiches
Focus on power of technology to heal
What would you say were the key stages of your 10 years of recovery?
Part one – the physical recovery getting the balance and strength back – Moving from walking to running to golf weights and gym exercises (2-3 years)
Part two – The brain rehabilitation. I created my own plan to exercise the brain and recover its cognitive capacity. This encompassed a whole series of brain exercises linked to an awareness of the need to rest when overloaded. The workload was steadily increased with special attention to both speech capability and memory capacity. (about five years but still ongoing)
How important has technology been in your treatment and recovery, from the immediate aftermath to now?
The only area where technology was decisive was with the provision of the Internet – I was able to seek out the symptoms and form a (correct) diagnosis with no medical knowledge. The crisis condition that occurred with my eyesight happens only 4-5 times a year in all of Europe and I was able to alert my doctor and secure treatment.
Please describe 5 examples of the most important/incredible technologies you’ve used and how they helped you both physically and mentally? How did using these different technologies make you feel? (frustrated/hopeful?)
- Motivation, state of mind is everything here. Find 101 reasons to get well – Then write them down. The “Why” you are doing this will help you through the dark times
- Placebo – The placebo effect is quite well known but very little understood. My experience is that it is something that you can encourage to start working.
- Mind and Body – Its vital to focus all resources in the recovery process. You need to create a world where every cell in your body is working to this goal.
- You need a plan – To stay on track with a process like this you need a plan that encompasses all aspects of your life.
- One heroic goal, with a hundred signposts – Smart goals are OK for a shopping trip, but if you really want to change the world then you will need more. A massive incredible out-of-this-world goal will motivate you. The sign posts are there just to keep you on track.
Do you still use any mobile healthcare apps or healthcare technology to stay healthy, or to continue to improve your health? How do you use it and when?
No, I don’t use any of the modern apps – but I do work to an on-going mind body plan to assist with my continuing recovery
What kind of physical & mental activity do you do today? Would your life be the same without the healthcare technology you’ve used? How would it be different? How does knowing this make you feel?
- Physical – I continue with a range of activities; walking running golf gym and weights
- Mental – I continue to extend the cognitive capacity increasingly taking on bigger workloads. I will be speaking at a conference at Olympia in May
In most cases the Medical Services did not think I would recover even to within 50% of where I am today. Sometimes even trained staff cannot spot the medical issues without being told.
People often tell me something is impossible and I think yes I agree; but I am still going to do it.
Do you think dying on the operating table has given you a great appreciation for life, and the incredible technology around us today?
Not so much the technology more a sense of perspective. Most of us in this life really do only get the one chance and it’s a good idea to make the most of it. My own thoughts are: I really would like to leave something of value behind, something to show for my time here.
How did this whole experience end up with you running your own company, getting involved in training, writing, and public speaking?
The conventional career path was blocked to me – No one would take a chance on my health, and I had no references, a five year career gap with reduced hearing.
So I set out to create my own company, to make my own way in the world.
It was very necessary for me to increase the cognitive workload improving stamina, capacity and capability. This was an important part of my own recovery program; training writing and public speaking exercised all those areas where I clearly had technical weakness yet first class knowledge.
How do you want to use your experiences to change to world around you now?
I think others might learn that they can have major influences on their own health and that they really can get their life back.
What do you hope will happen in terms of healthcare technology in the future?
I think our NHS should work more closely with patients to empower them to take responsibility for their own health. They would have better health and better, longer, lives.