Intensive care nurse shares daughter's near-death experience

A Lancashire nurse who almost lost her daughter after she suffered a life threatening brain injury following a fall is planning to share her story at high schools and colleges to raise awareness about the risks of drinking too much.She tells AASMA DAY her story

Monday, 31st July 2017, 4:05 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:43 pm
Picture by Julian Brown 14/01/17 Shaunha pictured with mum Tracy at their Burnley home Shaunha Webster, 18, of Burnley, who went out on Boxing Day a year ago and after drinking, fell down the stairs and banged her head. She was taken to Royal Preston Hospital where her condition deteriorated and she almost died as she suffered bleeding and swelling in the brain. Surgeons had to remove parts of her skull to allow her brain to swell and she was in hospital for a month and has now had titanium plates fitted to replace the missing pieces of her skull.

When intensive care nurse Tracy Webster-Walsh tells anguished families that she knows what they are going through, she is speaking from the heart.

Tracy, 50, who lives in Burnley and is a critical care staff nurse at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, is used to caring for patients facing life threatening conditions.

However, she experienced the situation from the other side of the bed when her teenage daughter suffered life threatening injuries following a night out.

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Shaunha Webster in hospital after her accident which resulted in her having to have two parts of her skull removed

Tracy is now planning to go into high schools and colleges to share her experience with young people and raise awareness.

Tracy’s daughter Shaunha fell down some stairs and hit her head on a kitchen worktop resulting in a serious brain injury and almost died.

Doctors at the Royal Preston Hospital saved Shaunha’s life with emergency surgery to remove two pieces of skull and these have now been replaced with titanium plates.

Despite her horrifying ordeal, Shaunha, 19, has made a remarkable recovery following the accident which happened on Boxing Day 2015.

Tracy Webster-Walsh at work as an intensive care nurse

Tracy now wants to warn young people about the potential repercussions of drinking too much.

Tracy, who also has a son Daniel, 25, says it was very traumatic seeing her daughter in a hospital bed surrounded by tubes and machines: “As an intensive care nurse, it was surreal to be on the receiving end of the kind of care I was used to giving to patients.

“It was difficult as you want to detach yourself from being a critical care nurse and just want to be a mum. It was almost like a conflict of interests. Too much knowledge can be a bad thing and with the inside familiarity I had about intensive care, I knew how serious things were.”

However, Tracy says there were also times when her nursing expertise helped her through the ordeal.

Shaunha Webster in hospital after her accident which resulted in her having to have two parts of her skull removed

She says: “At times, being a nurse made it harder but as things became more positive and Shaunha began to get better, my expertise as a nurse helped Shaunha during her recovery and kept her positive.”

Shaunha had been on a night out drinking and went to stay at the house of someone she knew but fell while taking a quilt down the stairs. She was put into an induced coma at Royal Preston Hospital and later underwent an emergency craniotomy. After eight months Shaunha had further surgery to have her missing pieces of skull replaced with titanium plates.

Tracy says although accidents can always happen, she believes alcohol played a major part in Shaunha’s mishap. She wants young people to be aware of the risks and take precautions to keep themselves safe.

She says: “I want to raise awareness of how dangerous drinking too much can be but also the importance of getting help when accidents happen and someone is 
injured.

Tracy Webster-Walsh at work as an intensive care nurse

Shaunha was studying health and social care at college but had to finish after her injury. She now has a part-time job and is hoping to return to college some day and go into childcare.

Tracy says: “Shaunha is doing really well and has been so strong. She has trouble with tiredness and concentration, which is normal when recovering from a head injury. We have come out of the other side and it is now about staying positive and getting Shaunha back to leading a normal life.”

Shaunha says: “I am very lucky to have survived. My family were told to expect the worst and I almost died twice. I want to share my story together with my mum to warn other young people about how drinking too much can completely change your life.”

Tracy says the turmoil has made her even more aware of the importance of being a nurse.

Tracy, who went back to college and university to become a nurse after her children went to school and qualified nine years ago, says: “I did my nurse training later on in life but it was something I had always had an interest in. Working in critical care can be a double edged sword. It can be stressful and very emotional and traumatic when you lose patients.

“But it is also very rewarding when patients recover after being very ill or after a serious injury. I share my experience with what happened to Shaunha with my patients and their families in critical care when I’m supporting them. I want to give them positivity and let them know I have been on the other side and understand exactly what they are going through.”

Tracy, who is fundraising for the intensive care team and neurological team at Royal Preston Hospital, is also full of praise for her bosses and colleagues at Blackburn.

Linda Gregson, matron in critical care at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital, says: “Sitting next to an intensive care bed and being told your child might not survive is the worst thing for a parent.

“But Shaunha luckily managed to come through it all and we were full of respect for the way Tracy dealt with everything. What was also admirable was the way Tracy managed to walk back into her own unit and face nursing young people when it could have brought back the memories of Shaunha being in intensive care.”

“All the work Tracy is now doing to raise awareness and fundraising is fantastic and we are very proud of her.

“We have chosen to support her fundraising efforts as one of our charities for the year.”