A BRAIN tumour, meningitis, hydrocephalus, two clots and a stroke — Naomi Bailie has battled all to return home for a belated Christmas.
Enduring a five-week coma and undergoing six rounds of lifesaving surgery as loved ones were cautioned to take “one hour at a time”, the 31-year old mother-of-one has beaten the odds to return home for an overdue festive dinner.
The Downpatrick councillor is back home in Ballygalget with husband Gerard and baby daughter Niadh following a 10-week hospital stay, but she has been warned her recovery will be long.
Speaking for the first time since being released from hospital last week, Naomi says she is determined to fight back to full health.
Relieved to be reunited with Niadh in time for her first birthday later this month and enjoying home comforts she describes as “simply heaven”, she said she is only beginning to realise the severity of her condition and feels emotional about the trauma her family suffered during their long bedside vigil.
While she remembers struggling with a debilitating headache on the morning of December 7, she said she has no memory of the weeks that followed. It has been, she says, up to her family to fill her in on missing time.
“I got up that morning with a crushing headache and, as I suffer from migraines, I took a tablet and thought that would kill it,” she said.
“Gerard had gone to work but thankfully I called him to come home. By the time he arrived I had been sick, I was crawling on the floor in pain and I did not know who he was.”
“My best friend, who is a nurse in neurosurgery, called to the house and realised how ill I was.
“I have no memory of my journey to hospital, but have been told I was completely disoriented and would not obey paramedics, who had to lift me out of the car. I am sure it was terrifying to see.”
While Naomi had been warned about the risk of meningitis because of an underlying health condition, she said she could never have envisaged what lay ahead.
Now piecing together details of the deadly challenges she faced, she is convinced the past 10 weeks have been easier for her than for her family.
Oblivious to the precarious nature of her condition for much of her hospitalisation, she said her family was forced to face the reality of an uncertain prognosis, while juggling Niadh’s care.
“My family was told that I had so much to cope with they should just take one day at a time, and there were times they were advised to take things one hour at a time,” she said.
“After my first operation I had a type of stroke associated with surgery, I could not move my left-hand side and the likelihood of brain damage was raised.
“The tumour was also discovered and had to be removed once I was fit enough. Then we had to wait for results and thankfully that was benign.
“In lots of ways, for me, it was easy. I was sick, I was in hospital and I slept. I sat in a bed for 10 weeks and it all happened to me. I have come out of it tired and sore.
“But my heart goes out to my family who were with me the whole time. For them it was awful.”
Re-adjusting to home life, Naomi said she is catching up on news she has missed.
A Sinn Fein councillor, who was the inaugural chairwoman of Newry Mourne and Down super council, she said one of the first things she read about was the retirement of her party leader Martin McGuinness. She was also devastated to learn that a very good friend had passed away while she was ill.
Easily tired, she admits she finds it difficult not being able to fully meet the demands of her growing baby.
“I love being back with Niadh. I hardly saw her, partly because of the risk of infection and also because I did not want her to see me in that state,” she said.
“She came in on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I went into hospital with a nine month-old baby and now she has extra teeth and is about to turn one. It is a lot to take in, especially as I am still very weak.”
“But I have a lot to be grateful for. The doctors on the ward were brilliant as was my family. I would not be here but for them.
“It has been a rough ride. Now it is about getting back to normal. If I can do that, I will be flying.”