After waking up from her “terrifying” surgery, a Dundee girl’s life was changed forever.
Caitlyn Geekie, 16, from Emmock Woods in Claverhouse, was running out of options as she dealt with the exhaustion of having seizures every day caused by tuberous sclerosis.
She was diagnosed with the rare genetic condition at the age of two, having initially been taken to the doctors with eczema-like symptoms.
The disease causes benign tumours to develop and spread across the body and mostly affects the brain, skin, kidneys, heart, eyes and lungs.
Caitlyn had undergone different treatments for 13 years at Ninewells Hospital until choosing to have open brain surgery at the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh.
Today will mark one year to the day she went under the knife – and a whole year of being seizure-free.
Caitlyn’s mum Tanya Geekie, 45, said that although they knew the operation could have been life-threatening, the opportunity to stop her seizures left them with little choice.
Tanya said: “She was so unwell it was a last chance to give her a life back.
“She couldn’t live like that – she was having seizures daily which was causing exhaustion and damage to the brain. She missed sleepovers and birthday parties.
“She was missing school and wasn’t able to live fully. She couldn’t cook for herself and couldn’t even hold a knife. We had to put our trust in the NHS.
“But we knew the risk of death any time there is open brain surgery involved. There was also a risk of permanent damage to the motor nerves which would have left her with a limp.”
However, the fifth year Grove Academy pupil didn’t let the thought of brain surgery, which lasted around five hours, bother her.
Tanya added: “Everyone was walking on eggshells. Her little brother Riley was always concerned while she was in hospital. He had never been apart from Caitlyn and she spent five days in the hospital. He was saying it was his biggest wish to see her.”
Caitlyn’s friends also went to visit her while she was in hospital – despite the Beast from the East snowstorm disrupting travel across the area.
Tanya said: “I remember it was 10am the day after and she was sitting in bed doing a crossword.
“That’s the type of girl she is – resistant, strong and doesn’t let these things phase her.
“She was reading and wanted to build her strength to go back to school.”
Caitlyn returned to lessons in April and later passed her final exams and received a school award for her hard work.
Dancing is one of her passions and Caitlyn was back on her feet performing with local group Dance Sensation during their show in May at the Whitehall Theatre.
Speaking about the difference surgery has made, Caitlyn said: “I’ve become more confident and engage more with people.
“Everyone has been very supportive at school, everything has changed now.”
Tanya said: “I would like to give other parents hope because there have got to be others going through a similar situation.
“It’s not all plain sailing – Caitlyn’s had a rough few weeks recently with her medication but the seizures are gone which is a bonus.”
The surgery means Caitlyn will be able to take driving lessons and go to university.
Tanya said her daughter is also keen to travel the world as well as continuing her passion for tap dancing.
She added: “The NHS has been extraordinary and in particular Dr Alice Jollands at Ninewells. We couldn’t have got through it without her.
“This has put everything into perspective. Caitlyn can be or do anything she wants.”
Paediatric consultant Dr Alice Jollands, who helped Caitlyn, said: “We are very grateful to get this positive feedback.
“This means a lot to an extensive local and national team who work together to provide the best care possible for our patients.”