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Having battled paralysing stroke, Grand Canyon trek walk in park for brave Sean Watson

By Sophie Inge

Published 02/11/2016

Sean Watson
Sean Watson
Sean Watson (back left) on his charity trek around the Grand Canyon

In 2003 Sean Watson's parents were told that he might never walk again after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage and stroke.

Almost 13 years to the day, however, Sean (37) has just completed a week-long trek around the Grand Canyon to raise money for the hospital that saved his life.

It's been a long road to recovery for the solicitor from south Belfast.

Back in September 2003 Sean, then 24, was in London training to be a solicitor when he had two major seizures.

Scans revealed a mass the size of a fist in his brain and he was admitted to hospital for further tests. His parents John and Margaret flew to his bedside as soon as they heard the news.

There, he was told he had an arteriovenous malformation - or AVM - in his brain, a tangle of blood vessels which carried a high risk of rupturing.

After undergoing a risky procedure to shrink the mass, Sean began experiencing excruciating headaches and eventually had a massive stroke. He was rushed to the operating theatre for damage-control surgery, during which neurosurgeons removed the blood clots and tied off the ruptured blood vessels.

After the surgery Sean was in a critical condition in intensive care. He was paralysed down the left side of his body, had a reduced level of consciousness, could not talk and was in a great deal of pain.

His frantic parents were warned that their son might be paralysed.

But for the next three weeks he worked with physiotherapists who helped him to walk again - initially on crutches and later unaided.

Finally, in early November 2003, he had major brain surgery to remove the AVM. According to doctors, his was one of the largest AVMs to be surgically removed from a patient who was still alive.

The operation was a success and Sean was discharged at the end of the month. While his speech and ability to walk came back relatively quickly, he had problems with cognitive function, his eyesight and hearing, and continued to have seizures.

Sean, who lives in London, said: "I had to learn to read again and adjust to the changes in my vision and hearing. It was like half of my world was gone."

In September 2004 he returned to work and finally qualified as a solicitor in 2006. He now works for a commercial-property finance company, and became a father in 2014.

He said: "To have survived such serious illness at a young age has given me a good perspective on life.

"There is not much that bothers me now."

On October 9 he began a five-day trek around the Grand Canyon for The National Brain Appeal, a charity that raises funds for the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London.

"The National Brain Appeal's Grand Canyon Trek seemed to me the perfect way to mark my 13-year anniversary of being able to walk again," he said. "It is thanks to the incredible staff at The National Hospital that I am here today and living a full life."

To support Sean visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=SeanWatson

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