VIDEO: Isle of Wight firefighter Mark Grimes and his family are championing the relaunch of HeadSmart, a campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of a brain tumour.
Mark underwent brain surgery in April 2015, whilst conscious, to allow surgeons to remove 95% of an oligodendroglioma tumour. Since then he has tirelessly campaigned to raise HeadSmart’s awareness, stressing the vital need for earlier diagnosis of brain tumours.
Last year Mark went back to work at Ryde Fire Station and last week received his driving licence back from the DVLA – another milestone in his overall recovery.
Mark and his family are only too aware of the difference early recognition of symptoms and therefore diagnosis can be. Mark says:
“Following my surgery, recovery and having done lots of research, having a young family it was upsetting reading about and seeing the stats for brain tumours in young people and the current diagnosis times. We felt the need to do something and it became apparent that there was little and in some places no information here on the Isle of Wight about brain tumours, especially in schools or GP surgeries.
“So that was it. We decided we were going to attempt to get Headsmart symptom cards into every pre school and primary school child’s book bag on the island and to also get a display box into every local GP surgery, along with posters for patients to view whilst in the waiting rooms. We had 15,000 cards delivered to our house and spent hours emailing, writing and phoning all these GP’s and schools.
“We have also been able to get information and a digital display into the island’s only A&E department which has tens of thousands of people pass through every year.
“Kathryn my wife has also campaigned through the Health Visitors and School Nurses Department to get HeadSmart cards put into every new mum’s baby book so the information is there right from birth for mothers to become aware of the signs and symptoms.
“Our next task is to get into all of the Island High Schools (several thousand students). We will be doing this with the help of a young lady that we met though our support group who herself has had a tumour removed in the last 12 months and attends one of the high schools and also wants to help raise awareness in young people.”
Mark’s own diagnosis illustrates the needs to be aware of symptoms:
“From August of 2014, I was having periods of about 1-1.5 minutes where my vision, which I can only explain as feeling like I was cross-eyed and dizzy. At the start this would happen approximately once every six weeks.
“Over the next five months this slowly increased to once every four to seven days, it became apparent that during these dizzy spells I was also unable to talk, which was frightening.
“Following my diagnosis after a CT scan in January 2015, I began to get such bad headaches that that they would knock me out for the day, not being able to stand lights, I spent all day with my head under a pillow in bed.”
Mark now plans to run the 2017 London marathon for The Brain Tumour Charity to raise vital awareness and funds for research into this devastating disease.
The HeadSmart campaign, which includes a website as well as the symptoms cards, lists the warning signs of a brain tumour in babies, children and teenagers. These include vomiting, balance problems and unusual eye movements. Newly-added symptoms, after a review of all the evidence showing the most common signs of childhood brain tumours, include increasing head circumference in under-fives and loss of vision across all age groups.
HeadSmart is being formally relaunched today (Monday) at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London, where doctors will take part in a workshop to learn about the signs and symptoms of childhood brain tumours.
Symptoms vary across age groups. For more information, visit www.headsmart.org.uk/.