When Amy Mellon began to experience severe migraines, she put it down to the stress of revising for her A Levels at West Nottinghamshire College.
But her world was suddenly turned upside down last November when the migraines were diagnosed as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) – a condition which creates fluid around the brain.
After almost passing out in class one day, Amy was admitted to hospital for tests, where an MRI scan revealed the condition. Doctors told her it was unlikely she could be relieved of the pain.
Amy, of Mansfield Woodhouse, said: “It was scary because something like this is normally present when you have a brain tumour. But thankfully that’s not the case with me. Doctors think a previous bump to my head created a delayed reaction where my brain released fluid to protect itself.”
The 18-year-old’s injury was sustained while on holiday last year, when she accidentally hit her head on the corner of the kitchen worktop in the apartment she was staying in.
“They think this could have caused the condition. But that’s why it’s labelled as ‘idiopathic’ – because it’s a bit of an unknown,” she said.
“I am in constant pain but just have to get on with it. It’s affected my studies and I’ve had to slow down a bit in general and had to learn to revise in short bursts, as reading and looking at a computer screen can be strenuous.
“There are times when even daylight causes pain and I have to have my eyes checked regularly as the condition can sometimes cause blindness.
“But in a strange sort of way, my studies have sometimes been a welcome distraction from the pain.”
The pressure on Amy’s brain can only be eased by a lumbar puncture – a procedure that involves spinal fluid being drawn delicately from her spinal column. She has undergone one unsuccessful attempt, which required her to remain awake while two different consultants tried to insert the needle into her spine.
Rather than go through this procedure again, Amy has decided to trial a medicine aimed at relieving the pain.
Despite her health problems, determined Amy has remained an active member of the college community.
She said: “All my tutors and fellow students have been so supportive and understanding and I’ve really enjoyed my time at college, where I’ve helped organise volunteering activities such as a coffee morning for the elderly and a number of fundraising events.”
But what is perhaps most impressive is the way Amy has excelled in her A Level studies. She is predicted to get A, A and B grades in law, business studies and psychology respectively when she opens her results envelope.
Amy then hopes to study law at the University of Sheffield before embarking on a career in corporate law – something she has dreamt of since a child.
“I’ve been determined not to let my condition get in the way of my exams or enjoying my time at West Notts – or stop me going on to university,” said Amy.
“I’m really looking forward to what the future may bring.”