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Rose's ‘spark for life’ returns

RPA's neurology team helps Rose recover from debilitating condition.

Couple holding each other standing in front of RPA sign
SydneyConnect Image: Rose Ingram and her partner

Rose Ingram struggled for three years with debilitating headaches. They felt like a dull pulsing in her right ear that would turn into bass drums when she leant forward.

Some days, she had trouble adjusting to the light on awakening, and would see double or lose her vision for up to 10 seconds when moving between light and dark rooms. At other times, she would lose her hearing completely.

One afternoon, she lost her memory and was unable to find her way home or even recall the day, month or that she had a partner named Ben.

Rose sought help from multiple doctors and was prescribed various medications, but nothing worked.  She gave up her job as a chef to work in a laundry, where her memory problems made her “less dangerous”.

Eventually, with the help of one medication, her memory improved and she was able to progress to a job as a belt runner at a uranium and copper mine, where she loaded, operated and maintained trains, drove bobcats and front end loaders and scaled ladders.

But the noise and movement only made her headaches worse. She withdrew from hobbies, and felt hopeless about the future.

Then, a serendipitous encounter in a South Australian café with RPA neurologist Geoff Parker changed her life.

“My mum and nanna knew Dr Parker from years ago and while he was on holidays in the Flinders Ranges, they arranged a catch up. Mum happened to mention what was going on with me and Dr Parker said my issues were his speciality,” Rose said.

Dr Parker and colleague Michael Halmagyi stepped in to help.

In September last year, Rose was admitted to RPA for tests and was diagnosed with idiopathic intracranial hypertension, or high pressure in the brain. On a return visit in November, she had stents implanted in her brain. Three weeks later, she was donning her hard hat and miner’s belt, ready to be back at work.

“I feel the spark for life slowly edging back, like the old, positive, optimistic me wants to move back in,” she said.

After her recovery, Rose took the time to write a letter thanking the neurology and intensive care teams who looked after her at RPA.

“The whole time I was in the ICU, I was given the kindest, heartfelt care, cared for with the utmost respect,” she wrote.

And to the neurology team: “Your research and hard work may be tiring and exhausting at times, but please trust me when I say, ‘It’s worth it.’

“Without it, I would still be crying every day at work. I would still be taking all different medications and I would still be lost.  I would still be lying awake all night thinking of the possibilities that could be, and I would still be hopeless. Because you reached out and put your hand out, I have a chance now.”

Rose and Ben are now planning their wedding.