Woman whose face was paralysed after surgery has first ever facial reanimation operation
A young woman who woke up with facial paralysis after having brain tumour removal surgery has become the UK’s first patient to undergo a successful facial reanimation procedure.
Sammy Taylor, now 28, underwent brain surgery in 2019 to remove a pilocytic astrocytoma, a primary central nervous system tumour.
The freelance health writer from Worcestershire had realised there was a problem when she was just 14, when she began to suffer loss of balance and spinning vision.
The symptoms turned out to be a brain tumour affecting her nervous system, which was eventually diagnosed in 2013.
As doctors had told her in 2013 that it wasn’t a “nasty” brain tumour and that it would likely never change, she claims she was never too worried, Yahoo News reports.
While she suffered monthly episodes of vertigo, when extreme dizziness was “petrifying” and made her fearful of sleeping, she said she knew these weren’t constants and would soon pass.
Ms Taylor went under the knife in 2019, aged 25, in a London hospital to remove the growth.
But when she awoke from the surgery, she received the shocking news that she had suffered a stroke that left her with facial paralysis down the right side of her face.
She also suffered balance issues and oscillopsia, the sensation that the world is always moving.
Ms Taylor was left needing to relearn how to walk again, write again and even feed herself.
The risk of stroke outlined on her consent form had been listed as two per cent – so rare for the type of surgery that no one really understood why it happened.
Speaking of the terrifying experience, Ms Taylor said she recalled waking up from surgery unable to see anything.
“My eyes were moving so much with the nystagmus, I couldn’t focus my vision and I started to panic,” she said.
“It was when I went to tell the nurses that something was wrong that I realised something had happened to my face too.”
Ms Taylor underwent corrective eye surgery for her double vision in 2020, followed by facial reanimation surgery – the first to be performed in the UK and only the third to be performed in the world.
Today, Ms Taylor is able to feed herself again, walk unassisted and even run and paddleboard.
She said recovery was the “most challenging part” given that her best friends were all buying their first homes or getting engaged, while she was back living with her mum learning to walk again and having physiotherapy daily.
“I was like a child again – being fed and clothed in the early stages when I couldn’t stand or use my arm to do those things. And my progress was also painfully slow,” she said.
But after some time passed, she realised that the one per cent of small daily progress was adding up and she started to focus more on her own path.
Ms Taylor started her own business while preparing for brain surgery in 2019, named Beauty in the Brain.
The brand makes meaningful products – stationary, jewellery, and clothing – with positive messages based on her tumultuous health journey.