‘I am blessed’ - Mother who had rare brain disease gets her smile back
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A mother has regained her ability to smile after she endured painful facial reconstructive surgery following a rare brain disease.
Sandra Liddell from Henstead was diagnosed with cavernoma four years ago, since then she has undergone a series of painful operations and exhausting tests to regain the use of her face.
The former beautician saw numerous doctors after suffering from symptoms including pressure in her head, changes in her hearing and sickness.
In 2015, she was diagnosed at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge with a cavernoma - which is a cluster of abnormal blood vessels.
Earlier this year, Mrs Liddell underwent labbé technique, which improves facial symmetry when the face is relaxed as well as when she is smiling.
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The surgery lengthened and transferred a muscle on the side of the head which ordinarily moves the jawbone.
After a painful recovery process, emergency surgery following a blood clot and strenuous exercises to retrain the brain, the mother-of-three is now able to wear a slight smile for the first time in years.
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"I think they talk about it as a Mona Lisa smile - I don't think I will have the big smile again, it will never be back to normal.
"I am blessed - once you have brain surgery, everything you have after is a bonus in life - I could be paralysed," she said.
Despite the cosmetic benefits, she stressed the operation was for "the physical benefits and the quality of life".
"My speech is stronger - before I had to struggle to talk but now I don't, the children have also said my balance has improved.
"I couldn't even get a toothbrush in my mouth before," she said.
Throughout her journey, she has remained positive and now hopes her journey will help others struggling with facial paralysis.
"With the facial paralysis, I didn't want to just stay inside. I just went outside back then, but you notice people would stare.
"It is good I have a positive focus, I think the journey is out there to help other people. I accepted as me, but so many can't and struggle," she said.