A dad with a rare condition which left him in agonising pain at the slightest touch has kissed his wife for the first time in four years – after having a piece of his SKULL removed.
Mark Steadman, 38, was unable to go outside or wash his face after being diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) in 2009.
The condition – which effects 12 out of 100,000 people in the UK each year – leaves sufferers with pain in their face which is so bad more than a quarter of patients commit suicide.
It is caused by a blood vessel in the sufferer’s skull squashing against a nerve leaving the person in excruciating pain at the faintest touch.
Dad-of-three Mark was left in such agony even the slightest kiss or breath of wind on his skin felt like he had been “hit by lightning”.
He was also forced to take a cocktail of 50 powerful painkillers, including morphine, each day which left him in a zombie-like state.
But he has now been able to kiss his wife Louise, 35, for the first time since 2009 after he had a 10p-sized piece of his skull removed.
During the six-hour operation at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital on September 3, surgeons removed a piece of his skull in order to gain access to the nerve which they then wrapped in Teflon.
The treatment is expected to mean Mark, a probation service officer, remains pain free for the next decade when he will have to undergo another operation.
Mark, of Kidderminster, Worcs., said: “The surgery has transformed my life, I cannot say how wonderful it is to kiss Louise and my kids again.
“Even though I’ve had part of my skull removed it’s worth it to be able to be a normal dad and husband again.
“It was horrible being in the same house as my family and not be able to show them affection because I knew the pain would be so awful.
“The disease destroyed my life, the pain is so debilitating you can’t do anything. Once I was at my parents’ house for dinner and before the spoon even got to my mouth I was on the floor in agony.
“It feels like you have been hit in the face with a bolt of lightning, or at it’s worse like a whole thunder storm has hit you.
“There were up to 250 attacks a day.
“Sometimes the pain would drop me to my knees– other times it would feel like all of my teeth on the right hand side were just on fire.
“The only treatments were to take 50 pills a day, and they just left me like a zombie. I was just sat in my chair completely zoned out.
“If I needed to go to the toilet I needed someone to walk in front of me so I didn’t bump into things.
“They had to take away the medication and let my wife look after it because the temptation to take another pill to help ease the pain is too much.
“The other treatment was to operate and inject glycerine at the site to end the pain, but that would only last a few months before the pain returned.
“It first started in 2009 with pain in my teeth.
“I went to the dentist and he said it was a result of me grinding my teeth at night, but my wife pointed out I never did that.
“My GP and the drop in centre said the same thing, it was as if I was making it up.
“I felt like I was almost cracking up, I knew there was a problem but no-one seemed to know.
“It’s been a real battle, you spend your whole life trying to avoid the pain. It could be the gentlest of breath or a kiss off my wife and kids.
“I would get up in the morning and look outside and see the trees blowing and stand there in absolute panic saying ‘I can’t go out’.”
The couple, who have three children James, 15, Emily 13 and four-year-old son Leon, got married seven years ago.
Full-time mum and Mark’s carer Louise said: “The condition was a nightmare for us. Mark had to sleep downstairs.
“We’ve been together for 18 years but married seven years ago so basically for more than half our married life together I wasn’t able to kiss my husband.
“I cannot describe how good it is to have my husband back. I can’t stop kissing Mark now.”
Shockingly, Trigeminal Neuralgiais is known as the ‘Suicide Disease’ because 27 per cent of sufferers kill themselves because they are unable to bear the pain.
Professor Hugh Coakham, a neurosurgeon at the privately-run Spire Hospital in Bristol and expert in the condition, said: “Research suggests the pain is caused by a blood vessel pressing against the trigeminal nerve and wearing away the nerve’s protective myelin sheath.
“Sufferers experience these horrible electric shock-like feelings.
“It mostly affects middle-aged and older people. This may be because blood vessels become gnarled and twisted with age, encroach over the nerve and wear down the insulating sheath.”