Young woman blames terrifying seizure as she takes orders at McDonald’s drive-thru on “bad hangover” when she has a benign brain tumour

·7-min read

A young woman who had a terrifying seizure during her shift serving and taking orders at a McDonald’s  drive-thru blamed it on a “bad hangover” following a night out only to discover she had a benign brain tumour.

Danielle Freeman, 23, had enjoyed a number of beers and spirits with friends from the gym where she also worked back in the summer of 2019, ending up in a nightclub.

When she woke up feeling rough, she assumed she had drunk too much and went to work at the fast food outlet, only to experience a two minute seizure.

Now a personal trainer and nursery worker, Danielle, who lives in Portree on the Isle of Skye with her lifeguard boyfriend Connor, 26, said: “I was on the headset at the drive-thru and I suddenly made a screaming noise.

“I don’t remember any of this, but my boyfriend and my flatmate both worked at McDonald’s with me and came rushing over.”

Danielle in hospital before her operation (Collect/PA Real Life)
Danielle in hospital before her operation (Collect/PA Real Life)

She continued: “It was my flatmate who saw me first. He saw me screaming and thought I’d seen a fly as I hate bugs. But then I slowly started to fall to the floor and a manager caught me.

“I know now it was a grand mal seizure, one that causes loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions, and lasted upwards of two minutes. I then passed out for another five.

“When I woke up there was a paramedic, my boyfriend and my manager all standing over me and I had no idea what was going on. I felt so woozy.”

So disorientated that she could not find the words to tell the paramedic her name or where she was, Danielle was taken to hospital, where she was observed for several hours before being referred for an MRI appointment, which took a number of months to arrive.

In the meantime, Danielle says she was warned by doctors against too much partying.

Danielle after her surgery (Collect/PA Real Life)
Danielle after her surgery (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “I was told I was likely over drinking.

“I was told to just have three or four drinks if I went out and to space them out with glasses of water.

“I felt really bad – like it was my fault.”

When she was invited on another night out with workmates in December 2019, she followed doctors’ orders to the letter, limiting herself to just a small number of single shot drinks and having glasses of water in between drinking alcohol.

But the next morning she woke to find her worried boyfriend telling her she had just experienced another seizure in her sleep.

Danielle and her partner Connor (Collect/PA Real Life)
Danielle and her partner Connor (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “Compared to the first seizure, I didn’t really feel anything. I just felt like I woke up from a normal sleep.

“I felt tired from the night out, but I immediately stopped drinking after that.”

Looking back, Danielle now realises she started showing symptoms that something was wrong back in 2018, when she suddenly developed a gruelling fatigue she could not shift.

Still only a teenager, while she enjoyed the odd night out, she was focussed on looking after herself to fulfil her dream of becoming a personal trainer and worked hard on maintaining her health.

Feeling “mentally and physically drained” with no explanation, she said: “My workouts started to slip because I was so tired all the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the energy. I was just so drained.”

Danielle in the gym (Collect/PA Real Life)
Danielle in the gym (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “I couldn’t get out of bed to do things.

“My boss at the gym suggested I had depression, but I knew it wasn’t that. I was just dead tired and seemed down as I was so frustrated about how I was feeling.”

But it was not until 2020, when she received the results of her MRI scan in a letter, that the real cause of her fatigue and seizures was revealed,

She said: “I got a letter and it said in that there was a benign mass on my right temporal lobe.

“Because it was benign, I wasn’t as worried as I could have been.”

Danielle’s brain scan (Collect/PA Real Life)
Danielle’s brain scan (Collect/PA Real Life)

She continued: “But knowing there was something in my brain that shouldn’t be there was horrible.”

At a follow up appointment, Danielle was told the scan had detected a pea sized mass in her brain that could have been there for as long as seven years.

It explained her fatigue and doctors reassured her that it was not her fault and had nothing to do with her lifestyle.

She said: “A consultant explained my brain couldn’t process the hangovers because of the tumour, but that having a few drinks on a night out had not caused it.

“They gave me the option of either having immediate surgery or just watching and waiting, with regular scans checking the tumour, so I decided to wait.”

Advised that the tumour might not grow for a number of years, Danielle managed her symptoms with daily anti-seizure medication, also cutting out alcohol and following a healthy lifestyle.

While her seizures stopped when she was no longer having any alcohol, a scan at the end of 2020 revealed that the tumour was growing.

She said: “The tumour had grown ever so slightly, but it scared me. That’s when I was officially given the diagnosis of a grade two brain tumour.

“And I agreed to having surgery to remove it.”

Initially deemed non-urgent, Danielle’s case was escalated when her eyesight became blurry in January 2021, caused by the tumour pressing on her brain.

The scar Danielle was left with after her brain sugery (Collect/PA Real Life)
The scar Danielle was left with after her brain sugery (Collect/PA Real Life)

Attending hospital on her own because of Covid restrictions, she was admitted to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for the five hour procedure to remove the tumour in April 2021.

Ironically, after months of worrying that her nights out were behind her problems, she was reassured by her neurosurgeon that her “healthy lifestyle” meant she had the best chance of a good recovery.

Discharged after three days instead of the usual week or two, as she bounced back so quickly, she then had six weeks of radiotherapy and has been having chemotherapy since last August, that will end next month.

She said: “My energy levels are so much better now. I work out up to five days a week. The chemotherapy can make me tired, but I feel so much better.

“I can even have the odd drink now, but just have to make sure I take my seizure medication.”

Danielle Freeman now (Collect/PA Real Life)
Danielle Freeman now (Collect/PA Real Life)

With her treatment soon to finish, Danielle is now helping to promote The Brain Tumour Charity’s Better Safe Than Tumour campaign, which launched this week.

It aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours which, in adults, include persistent and severe headaches, changes in vision, seizures, balance problems or dizziness, memory problems, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, speech difficulties and numbness or tingling in the extremities.

It also highlights the importance of linking symptoms.

Danielle said: “For me, more awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours would have stopped me from blaming myself so much.

“I would have also known not to brush off the symptoms and instead to push for answers and even to suggest being sent for an MRI scan at the point when I started suffering with fatigue.”

Danielle and her partner (Collect/PA Real Life)
Danielle and her partner (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “This campaign will really help people with symptoms to ask more questions and understand what could be happening to them.

“In turn, this could lead to an all-important early diagnosis that could save lives.”

* For more information go to https://www.headsmart.org.uk/

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting