Our Neurosurgeon puts a stop to five years of excruciating facial pain

28 January 2019

Neuro-surgeon puts a stop to five years of excruciating facial pain.

Mrs Helen Whittaker and husband Mr Peter Whittaker CBE seek help from Bristol based Neural and Spinal Surgeon Mr Nik (Nikunj) Patel to ease excruciating facial pain.

Unless they have experienced it, very few people will know what Trigeminal Neuralgia is, let alone be able to pronounce it. TGN for short is an abrupt, severe facial pain. It is often described as having an electric shock in the jaw, teeth or gums. Mrs Helen Whittaker of Ivybridge, South Devon experienced this excruciating pain for more than five years. We spoke to Helen and her husband Peter to find out how they discovered Spire Bristol Hospital and Consultant Mr Nik Patel.

“I was diagnosed with TGN back in 2012 and during the last five and a half years had experienced bouts of excruciating facial pain, which often reduced me to tears. Only those who have had TGN can understand the severity of this pain.

"I felt disinclined to travel or accept invitations from people because at times the pain of eating or talking was so severe.” explained Helen.

Helen and her husband (Peter) have seen a neurologist, a neuro-surgeon and a number of pain management Consultants over the last five years, who all failed to provide any relief or respite. As a result the symptoms continued to cause disruption to both of their lives. The next option available to them was Microvascular decompression (MVD) surgery. The procedure takes around 2 hours and involves surgically opening the skull to expose the nerve at the base of the brainstem and relieve it from any compressing vessels, alleviating painful symptoms and achieving long-term remission in 80-85% of cases.

Peter talked about how the prospect of surgery and experience of their initial meeting with Mr Patel was enlightening.

“Over the last five years drug therapy didn’t work and my wife was unable to envisage ever being free of the very distressing pain. Her only option moving forward was surgery. We turned to Mr Patel, who listed TGN as one of his areas of expertise.

“Fuelled by data and comments provided by previous Consultants, my wife had formed a fairly negative attitude towards MVD surgery. Within a few brief moments of that initial consultation with Mr Patel he had reached out to her in such a way that I could see my wife relaxing and beginning to believe that it was indeed possible to get relief for her condition.” continues Peter.

Helen echoed these comments from her husband, explaining that Mr Patel had totally reassured her. She only wished that she had met him five years ago. A surgery date was booked for June 2016 at Spire Bristol Hospital, which is the South West’s largest private facility.  

“The people at Spire were all very professional, welcoming and efficient. I could not have had better care, nothing seemed too much trouble.” Said Helen, who shared with us a very positive experience of her time at the hospital.

“Now every morning I wake up feeling lucky and happy. I was lucky to have a very supportive husband and now I will be forever grateful for the expertise of Mr Patel.” Continues Helen.

Months on, Helen remains pain free and her confidence is restored. Her husband shares her gratitude to the hospital, the medical staff and Mr Nik Patel.

“Helen is a new woman, with her life back and she is very happy to have put her trust in what I can only describe as truly amazing skills. The future now presents a level of optimism that was impossible for us just a few months ago.

"Thank you so much for returning my wife.” – concludes Peter.

The Neuro Centre at Spire Bristol Hospital is the only private facility in the South West to offer high quality, complex neurosurgery and associated neurology. Should you require further information for an Neurological or Neurosurgical condition then do not hesitate to get in touch with their patient treatment advisers on 0117 980 4080 or email info@spirebristol.com. Alternatively speak to your GP about getting privately referred.

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