28/05/2024 | Press releases

‘Having two brain tumours has changed how I nurse’

When Clare Ruffell qualified as a nurse associate in 2021 she thought it was the start of an exciting new chapter.

Clare, now 49, was working as a health care assistant on D’Arcy Ward at Colchester Hospital. She’d spent two years studying for the qualification while working full time.

But then she started getting headaches and falling over, so she was referred for an MRI scan in June 2022.

Woman in university graduate gown and hat holding certificate
Clare Ruffell

Clare, who lives in Harwich, said: “Within five minutes of the MRI I was taken to the emergency department. I was told they’d found two brain tumours. They were on opposite sides of my head – one at the front and one at the back.”

Surgery was planned for one of the tumours in August 2022, but unfortunately Clare was struck with a blood clot in her lung during the operation. “I nearly didn’t make it,” she said. “Then they found I also had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

“The brain tumours were a shock and then I had this too.”

Clare took 10 months off work to recover, but experienced seizures and needed more surgery for a brain fluid leak.

Close up of woman in hospital gown, shaved head, tube up nose and swollen eye
Clare following surgery for one of the brain tumours

Clare lives on her own but said she’s still determined to work, and although gets tired, she’s changed where she’s based and is now working on Waverley Rehab Unit at Harwich Hospital while waiting for surgery for the second tumour.

Clare said: “It’s really good to be back at work. Some days are tiring and some days I still get headaches.

“It’s changed how I nurse. I’m caring for patients who are coming in with the same condition as me, so I know what they’re going through. When I was a patient I know what it’s like to be there buzzing your bell for someone to come and take you to the toilet.”

Picture of woman in nurse uniform
Clare now back at work

Clare, who has two grown up sons, said she makes sure she rests when not working and does what she can.

Sarah Wiekamp is the interim senior matron for North East Essex Community Services, which is part of ESNEFT. She said: “We are very proud to have Clare working within our Division.

“Despite adversity Clare has remained determined and positive in her working life, having a ‘can do’ approach. Continually demonstrating the Trust values of being ‘optimistic, appreciative and kind.’ ”

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