Chronic Headaches Develop Into Life-Threatening Symptoms

Marwa Ahm, a 30-year-old office administrator, had been suffering from worsening headaches and muscle pain for years. At first, Marwa attributed her symptoms to poor sitting posture and sought help for muscle pain relief. But after returning from holiday in October 2017, her symptoms began to get progressively worse: over-the-counter pain medications no longer worked to relieve her headaches, which would often return stronger within a couple of hours. She experienced vomiting, dizziness 24 hours a day, and started to feel heaviness in her left leg and arm. 

At this point, Marwa knew she needed to seek medical help and consulted with physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. “I was dizzy all the time,” says Marwa. “I wasn’t eating because of severe nausea and headaches. I was no longer able to walk alone. I was worried I was going to fall at any time.”

Rare Emergency Surgery Brings Relief

Within two weeks of meeting with neurologists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Marwa was given her diagnosis: a 4.5-centimeter benign (non-cancerous) tumor on the left side of her brain, at the base of the skull, was affecting the nerves and causing her symptoms. The type of tumor that Marwa had occurs in only four out of every 100,000 people.

The nature of her diagnosis meant that she needed to have surgical intervention as soon as possible. First, Marwa had surgery to implant a device called a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt, a thin tube that drains fluid from the brain to relieve pressure in the area. A few days later, she had a highly complex surgery to remove the tumor.

The risky operation Marwa underwent is unique to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi -- it is not offered anywhere else in the country. Marwa was treated by Dr. Florian Roser, Chief of Neurosurgery at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, and his neurology team.

Possible risks include numbness in the face, double vision, stroke-like symptoms, and the possibility of not being able to swallow. 

Marwa shares, “Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is one amazing place. I don’t like hospitals, but honestly, I got my life back again because of the people that helped me. With all of the suffering and pain that I’d gone through, they were helpful, kind and amazing people. Even my family was treated very kindly.” She declares, “It was the best place I could ever be.”

A Brand New Beginning

Marwa returned to work just one month after the procedure to remove the tumor. She is currently free of symptoms and able to return to doing the things she loves with a new sense of purpose. 

“I have become a much stronger person through this process. Life is worth taking good care of yourself. It’s not about getting the perfect job, buying a certain car or going shopping. There is no life without health. That’s what’s important. If you have good health, you’re living. If you’re not in good health, you’re not living.”