A life-changing lesson

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Above (L to R): Paul Smith, Richard Thayer and Kathryn Connor (10 West Nurse Unit Manager)

It has been just over a year since Richard Thayer found out he had a brain tumour and not a day goes by that he doesn’t count himself extremely lucky his story didn’t have a different ending.

“I’d been having headaches for a while and found myself feeling constantly tired. I was also struggling to sleep. I didn’t do anything about it, as I just thought I was feeling this way because it was a busy time of year,” said Richard, who is the Corporate and Community Partnerships Manager for St Vincent’s Foundation.

“One night I went out with some friends and woke up the next day with what I can only describe as a ‘lightening’ headache – the pain was intense and travelled from one side of my head to the other. I assumed I was hungover from the night before and, once again, I ignored the warning signs, choosing instead to try and sleep it off.”

His headache worsened as the week continued and he found work became increasingly challenging.

“My eyes throbbed; I found it difficult to concentrate; I struggled at times to find my words and was embarrassed as people started finishing my sentences for me – something just wasn’t right,” he recalled.

Eventually, Richard made an appointment to see a GP and when he described his symptoms, he was told to get himself to a hospital straight away.

“I was worried but as soon as I walked into the Emergency Department at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, I had a sense of calm – I knew I was in the right place,” said Richard, who has worked at St Vincent’s, on and off, for the past 10 years.

“I have always been so impressed by the compassionate care this hospital is known for, but never expected to be on the receiving end of it.”

 Richard recovery

Above: Richard recovering after surgery

In good hands

A golf-ball sized tumour positioned close to the brain stem was detected in Richard’s CT scan.

“That’s when everything suddenly made sense,” he said. He knew that worrying wasn’t going to change anything and used humour to help him comes to terms with the diagnosis and get himself through this difficult time in his life. After discussing his options with St Vincent’s Neurosurgeon, Mr Paul Smith, he had surgery – just six weeks after his diagnosis.

“I remember repeating the words, ‘thank you’, as the anaesthetic took effect, and I slowly closed my eyes. It was a nine-hour operation and, luckily, they were able to remove most of the tumour. I spent five days recovering in hospital where I was cared for by the incredible team in 10 West, and then returned home to rest and start my rehabilitation,” Richard said.

“The long scar on the back of my head is a daily reminder that I have had more than luck on my side. I had some very special people at St Vincent’s who got me through. Thank you doesn’t even come close for the care I have received. I will always be grateful for the gift of life they’ve given me.”

Through his work at St Vincent’s, Richard said he has had the privilege of speaking with hundreds of patients about their stories.

“I never envisaged it would be me one day sharing mine. I just hope my story helps encourage others to never ignore the warning signs of potential health problems,” he said.