A MUM went to hospital with what she thought was a harmless sinus infection – then returned home with “half a skull”.
Natasha Gunther Santana’s repeated sinusitis led to a pus-filled brain abscess which required four different surgeries to remove.
As part of the procedures, she had to have a chunk of her bone cut away.
The 26-year-old, from San Jose, California, USA, said: “I felt very insecure and it made me extremely depressed.”
Natasha first fell ill with a sinus infection in 2021, then suffered four more.
Each time, she would take antibiotics which would reduce her symptoms temporarily, but they would keep coming back.
When the final one didn’t clear, Natasha’s fears began to grow.
She then started vomiting, experiencing severe migraines and becoming unusually angry and irrational.
“I became a different person with a different personality,” she said.
“I was very angry and mad at the world and wasn’t myself.”
Hospital tests revealed she had an immunodeficiency PRKCD mutation, which meant the antibiotics weren’t working anymore.
A CT scan later confirmed the worst – she had a brain abscess, or pus-filled swelling in the brain.
Natasha underwent a temporal craniotomy on December 13, 2021, but complications arose when she developed acute deep vein thrombosis and suffered a seizure.
In total, she had seven different surgeries – four on the brain and three in the sinuses.
They left her with what she described as half a skull, which forced her to wear a helmet for the next five months.
Natasha, who also had to relearn how to walk and talk, was even advised to avoid looking at herself in the mirror as she would likely be too shocked by what she saw.
She said: “I tried my best not to go outside.
“I went out of the house for doctor visits and maybe less than five times out to places like the mall.
“I’d wear my helmet and a hoodie so people couldn’t see it. It’s extremely scary.
“I was also very traumatised and afraid of people walking by and accidentally bumping into me.
“It took me about a year to get over the trauma and fear of being hit by someone by accident.”
I felt very insecure and it made me extremely depressed.
Natasha Gunther Santana
The recovery process was excruciating and intense, but thankfully she had the support of her husband Joao, 32, and seven-month-old son Raiden.
After two months, the swelling on Natasha’s skull went down.
She is now left with a scar that goes all the way around her head, as well as a small indent on the left side of her ear.
Although the experience was traumatic, Natasha said she’s come out the other side with a far more positive mindset.
The martial arts instructor said: “I have a beautiful baby boy, and my husband and I are about to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary.
“I’m teaching again, and life is beautiful.
“I have had headaches every day since, that hasn’t gone away.
“But I’ve come to terms that this is my new normal and I’m just happy to be alive.
“If you have a sinus infection, and have more than three a year, get a head CT and see a specialist. It could save your life.”