18 May 2021
A picture of Quick-thinking Sheena spots colleague’s brain tumour symptoms at work

A quick-thinking Sanctuary Care employee has been credited with saving a colleague’s life – after noticing behavioural changes that turned out to be symptoms of an aggressive brain tumour.

Sheena Adams, deputy manager at Sanctuary’s Furzehatt Residential and Nursing Home in Plymouth, noticed that healthcare assistant Nicky Sale was not her usual self at work. As a former neurology nurse, Sheena recognised the symptoms and called an ambulance.

As a result of Sheena’s quick-thinking, Nicky was admitted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth in February where she was diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Nicky was stunned to be told by doctors that, without treatment, she would be dead within three to four months but, with treatment, she could survive 13 to 15 months or maybe longer.

Within days, Nicky underwent surgery which removed around 80 per cent of the tumour and has recently finished six weeks of radiotherapy with concurrent chemotherapy. She now has a month’s break before starting more aggressive chemotherapy.

Nicky, aged 57 and a mum to 18-year-old son Leo, credits Sheena with saving her life.

She said: “Sheena is an absolute superstar. If it hadn’t been for her, God knows what would have happened. I probably would be dead by now. There is no doubt in my mind that she saved my life.”

Sheena, 37, had previously worked with neurology patients at Derriford during her nursing career. She spotted her colleague was struggling with words and having problems with completing paperwork.

She said: “Nicky has a bubbly and lovely eccentric personality. I noticed that the documentation she is required to fill in was uncharacteristically poor and made a mental note to raise this when she returned to work a few days later.

“As soon as she was back from holiday, I realised Nicky was really having to think about her words. It was then I noticed a tremor in her arm and things started to add up. I did some clinical observations on Nicky and phoned for an ambulance.”

Motivated by Nicky’s diagnosis, Sheena is now joining thousands of other fundraisers around the country by taking part in the Jog 26 Miles in May event to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.

Sheena said: “I am not a runner, so I am mixing walking with running and involving our residents, many of whom suffer with neurological conditions including Parkinson’s, dementia or even brain tumours.”

Nicky added: “I am very touched that Sheena is fundraising for Brain Tumour Research, along with the residents. Treatment for brain tumours has barely changed in decades.”

Melanie Tiley, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “What Sheena is doing is really inspirational and we will be cheering her and the residents on, every step of the way.”

Anyone who would like to support Sheena’s challenge can visit her Facebook fundraising page.