It started with just a headache, but Aidan Bunker is lucky to be alive following nine-hour emergency brain surgery.
The 17-year-old St Paul’s School student is recovering in hospital after a procedure to remove an abscess which leaked into his brain.
Doctors cut open Aidan’s head from ear to ear to help remove the growth and drain the fluid, pinning him back together with 40 staples and 55 stitches.
His parents have not left his side since the operation on Saturday, April 13, with mum Dee admitting she barely recognised her son when he came out of surgery.
“It didn’t look like the Aidan we knew,” she said. “They’d cut him from ear to ear and peeled his face away to get to the abscess and drain it.
“His face had swollen so much. Even as a nurse, you can never prepare yourself for when it’s your own child.
“He kept asking ‘why me, mum? What have I ever done?’
“It’s a tough time for him. He wants to be out with his friends, playing football and preparing for his A level exams.”
Doctors believe the abscess began to grow after a seemingly innocuous swimming trip. From there, it grew in his sinus and swelled, causing Aidan’s headache.
Dee said: “They think it came from a bacterial bug which got up his nose when he went swimming. As a nurse, I’ve never seen anything like it before.
“He’d suffered from a headache for almost eight days. Initially we just gave him paracetamol and expected it to go away.
“When it didn’t, I insisted we went to the doctors.”
But GPs were stumped by Aidan’s condition, and suggested going to the opticians as the pain was behind his eye. When tests showed nothing was wrong with his eyesight, they went back to the GP, but by this time, Aidan’s face had begun to swell.
He was taken to A&E in Milton Keynes before being rushed to John Radcliffe, Oxford, for the emergency surgery.
And, although he needed the vital procedure to save his life, Aidan was concerned about something else.
Dee added: “He was worried that the doctors would have to cut his hair. It’s like his pride and joy.
“His uncle and cousins have since shaved their heads to raise money for the hospital, who have been fantastic.
“They came to see Aidan a few days ago to show him, and give him a bit of normality again.”
Aidan, from Great Linford, has received a lot of support and ‘get well soon’ messages on his Twitter profile, including from TV presenters Jake Humphrey and Ben Shepherd, Jodie Marsh and former chairman of his beloved Tottenham Hotspur, Lord Alan Sugar.
But Dee knows her son isn’t out of the woods yet.
“They don’t know if it can come back again,” she said. “The doctors will keep him on antibiotics for about six weeks and we’ll keep a close eye on him.”
You can donate to Aidan’s family, who shaved their heads for him, at www.justgiving.com/martin-theobald