Something on the brain

31 Jan 2024

A little over a year ago, my life literally turned upside down. I’d been having headaches for a while, was constantly tired and struggling to sleep. Did I do anything about it? No, I just thought I was feeling this way because it was a busy time.

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. Once again, I ignored the warning signs, choosing instead to try and sleep it off.

But as the week continued, the headache worsened. 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.

Eventually, I made an appointment to see a GP and when I described my symptoms, I was told to get myself 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.

I have worked at St Vincent’s, on and off, for the past 10 years. However, I never expected to be on the receiving end of the compassionate care this hospital is known for.

My CT scan showed I had a golf-ball sized tumour that was close to the brain stem and that’s when everything made sense.

I understood worrying wasn’t going to change anything and tried to find humour in everything to help me get through. My wife and I discussed the options with my neurosurgeon and six weeks after diagnosis, I had surgery. 

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.

Over the years, I’ve talked with so many patients at St Vincent’s who would tell me their stories. I never envisaged it would be me one day sharing mine. I hope this encourages others to never ignore the warning signs of potential health problems.

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 I have received across both the Public and Private Hospitals and for the support from my team and countless people across the organisation. I will always be grateful for the gift of life they’ve given me

Richard Thayer is the Corporate and Community Partnerships Manager for St Vincent’s Foundation.

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

Richard created a fundraising page to raise money for the teams who looked after him:

“Thank you doesn’t even come close to how I feel about the care I received.”


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