Brenda blamed her sniffles on hay fever – until a brain scan revealed a truly extraordinary twist
Her runny nose was in fact a symptom of a life-threatening condition



23:55 GMT, 7 May 2012

Brenda Foskett was bending down digging a flower bed when her nose suddenly started to drip. She put it down to hay fever, but over the next four months the problem continued — her nose just kept running.

Brenda, 45, a customer service assistant, went to her GP who diagnosed rhinitis, irritation of the nose lining, and prescribed a nasal spray. Over the next two years she tried to ignore the problem.

‘It was more of a nuisance than a worry,’ she says. ‘It would happen about once a day for a few seconds, usually when I was leaning forward.’

Life-saving surgery: Brenda Foskett, whose runny nose turned out to be something very serious

Life-saving surgery: Brenda Foskett, whose runny nose turned out to be something very serious

Then in summer 2008 Brenda, who lives with her husband, Steve, and two teenage sons in Amesbury, Wiltshire, developed a persistent headache. She also started to feel unsteady when she leaned forward.

After a CT scan and endoscopy to examine the inside of her nose came up with nothing, she was referred for an MRI scan.

‘/05/08/article-2141047-0A0AD2AC000005DC-847_233x295.jpg” width=”233″ height=”295″ alt=”Surprise: An MRI scan showed a mass in Brenda's sphenoid sinus (file picture)” class=”blkBorder” />

Surprise: An MRI scan showed a mass in Brenda's sphenoid sinus (file picture)

Mr Mathad’s team then began five hours of painstaking surgery. First they put a slender instrument with a fibre-optic camera at the tip through one nostril and a tiny cutting instrument through the other.

Mr Mathad then created a corridor through the nose to the sphenoid sinus — this required enormous skill and the risks were high: the carotid artery — the major blood supply to the brain — was just 5mm away from where the surgeons were operating, and Brenda was warned that hitting it ‘would be the end’.

Meanwhile, the optic nerve was just 3mm away — a slip of the hand could have left her blind.

Once the scarred tissue was removed, surgeons used a segment of tissue from her thigh and tucked it under the exposed brain.

The thigh is tough and there is plenty of it, which means a small excision wouldn’t cause any side-effects. They then used another graft on top and held it in place with special glue.

Miraculously, the only sign that Brenda had been operated on immediately afterwards was two dressing packs in either nostril. And her surgeons were delighted with her progress.

‘I can’t believe how lucky I was,’ she says. ‘Sometimes Steve and I look at each other and I know we’re thinking the same thing — I had such a close escape.’

As she returned to normal, she took his teasing as a good measure of her recovery.

‘One day he said “I wonder which bit of the brain they removed. I hope it’s not the bit that does the housework”.’

It’s now been two-and-a-half years since she got the all clear.

‘I’ve got no more drippy nose, no headaches, no queasiness,’ she says. ‘The only reminder of what happened is that I’ve lost a bit of my sense of smell and sometimes cold air gives me a tingly feeling in my nose. But that’s it.

‘It’s so wonderful to not wake up every day feeling awful.’