Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

British woman nearly dies after tapeworms burrow into brain

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 8th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Forty-year-old Sherry Fuller nearly died after her volunteer work on a charity sanitation project in Madagascar -- after tapeworms burrowed into her brain. She's thought to have picked up the worms from contaminated food or water.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When Fuller returned to England she began to suffer with headaches that developed into frequent seizures. Doctors were at a loss to identify her condition.

A consultant neurosurgeon diagnosed neurocysticercosis, a rare condition in which a person becomes infested with pork tapeworm. The parasites get into the intestine and migrate to the muscles and brain where they form cysts.

Fuller discovered she had larvae in her brain that were the size of coins.

"We were working with children and there was nowhere for them to wash their hands," Fuller, an information officer with Southend Council, Essex said. "When I got home, I started having headaches but did not really realize anything was wrong with me.

"Then I started to have seizures. They were passed off as panic attacks. I was having four or five seizures a day. I went to my doctor who looked into my right eye. Part of it was black because of the swelling.

"I was sent for a scan. At first, it was thought I had tumors. It was a miracle how well I was doing given how much of my brain was swollen."

Fuller was rushed to the Royal London Hospital to see a neurological specialist, who reassured her that she did not have a brain tumor -- but then suggested that it could be HIV or TB.

Tropical medicine experts eventually diagnosed her with neurocysticercosis. "That was after three weeks which was a really frightening time. I was so unwell. My brain was not working and I was traumatized by the whole ordeal. It was a long time before I could sleep because I was worried I would not wake up again," Fuller said.

Hailing from Westcliff, Essex, Fuller says that she was strangely relieved to be told that she had tapeworm as it meant she could be cured. "The larvae in my brain were about the size of a 5p which was why it was causing me a problem. The doctors gave me a worming tablet which kills the larvae."

Fuller's ordeal was far from over, as her body reacted badly to the treatment and her arms, legs, and back swelled. She was given steroids to deal with the side effects and anti-epilepsy drugs stopped her convulsions.

A full recovery has taken her two years. "I could also not make decisions. I could do logic puzzles but if someone asked me to make a decision about the smallest thing, it would throw me into a panic."

Fuller in hindsight wishes she had had the support of an organization like Headway Essex, which cares for survivors of brain injuries, so she is now raising money for the charity.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)