Woman ‘blinded’ while driving on M5 near Bristol
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A woman was diagnosed with a rare brain condition that caused her eyes to randomly “switch off” - including while driving down the M5 near Bristol. Shannen Broodryk, 28, who had complained of headaches and blurred version, said she was travelling on the motorway when she suddenly ‘couldn’t see.’
She narrowly avoided tragedy by miraculously managing to pull over onto the hard shoulder during the journey from Oxford to Bristol. Shannen said she had other episodes where she was effectively blinded and claims her woes were not taken seriously enough by the medical profession.
But she was eventually referred to an eye hospital where she was diagnosed with a rare condition, Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension - excess tension on the brain. The condition causes the swelling of the optic nerve and double vision. It also causes her to suffer from nausea, memory loss and can affect her speech.
Shannen has now had a sight-saving shunt inserted, which is a thin tube to re-direct the excess fluid on her brain but continues to suffer from blurred vision. But recalling her terrifying temporary blindness on the motorway, she said: “I was on my way back from Oxford and I lost my vision whilst I was driving.
“I could see a mixture of light but had no idea what was in front of me. It was as if somebody had put frosted glass over my eyes. I managed to get over onto the side of the motorway. I must have had an angel looking over me. I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t even touch my phone. I just sat there in disbelief and thought this can’t be real. You never think these things will happen to you.”
Shannen who lives in Horsham in Wiltshire, with husband Joshua Broodryk, 29, said in the months leading up to the incident in January 2020 she had complained of dizziness and blurred vision but felt ‘fobbed off’.
She added: “I had a really bad headache and I had a ringing in my ears. I remember having a conversation with my parents and telling them it felt like my head was going to explode. I had never felt anything so bad.”
After the motorway incident, Shannen later managed to drive home and called her GP. She then went to Bristol Eye Hospital for an examination.
She added: “I was in denial that it would all be fine but my vision still wasn’t what it should have been. I was panicked and terrified I would cause an accident. I don’t remember driving to the hospital but my dad eventually found my car and it was parked at a church.”
Shannen went for an MRI to rule out the tumour and a CT venegram to rule out a blood clot. After going for a CT scan and a lumberpuncture, they discovered Shannen had an abnormally high level of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and diagnosed her with IIF.
She said: “They pulled out an abnormally high amount of CSF fluid from my lumberpuncture. Most people have a CSF level of between ten and 17 but mine was above 45. They didn’t have enough tubing to measure it, that is when I was diagnosed with IIF.”
Shannen was transferred to Southmead hospital where medical staff were tasked with saving her sight. She said: “I couldn’t see the doctors in front of me. I had a shunt inserted in my brain and it saved my sight.”
Shannen still suffers with her condition and has to take medication to manage the symptoms. She said: “The swelling went down but the affects are still very much alive. The pressure ruptured both of my retinas. I lost my driving license for two years and I lost my job.
“If I could go back, I would’ve gone straight to A&E.”
Since the sight-saving surgery, Shannen has returned to her “original passion” and works as a pre-school teacher after completing a degree with the Open University.