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Visitor suffered 15 years with illness before being saved

GRATEFUL: Dave and Maureen Heap are revisiting the Capricorn Coast a year after Maureen became extremely ill and was rushed to Yeppoon Hospital, where they were finally able to diagnose her with insulinoma, after years without treatment.
GRATEFUL: Dave and Maureen Heap are revisiting the Capricorn Coast a year after Maureen became extremely ill and was rushed to Yeppoon Hospital, where they were finally able to diagnose her with insulinoma, after years without treatment. Chris Ison Rokcholiday

IT'S been just a week over one year since Maureen Heap was minutes from death at Mulambin's Capricorn Holiday Village.

Maureen and husband Dave returned to Yeppoon on the same date this year as part of their healing process for what had been a very long and emotional road for the retired couple and their family.

From Armidale, Maureen said she had been feeling unwell over the last 15 years, but no specialists or medical professional could tell her why.

"I was having blackouts, feeling dizzy and just couldn't think straight a lot of the time," the retired zoologist said.

"I saw psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists but I was told it was all in my head."

But Maureen knew something wasn't right.

Until one morning while camping at Mulambin on holidays, Dave called the ambulance fearing the worst for his wife.

"The paramedics who picked us up and took me to Yeppoon Hospital were wonderful and it was them who discovered I had extremely low blood sugars and said I was just minutes from going into a coma and possibly death," she said.

"Dr Timothy Smith saw me at the hospital and suggested I might have an insulinoma.

"So if it wasn't for them I may not be here today."

Insulinoma is a tumour of the pancreas that produces excessive insulin.

The tumours are usually small (less than 2cm) and more than 90% of all insulinomas are benign (non-cancerous).

They produce excessive amounts of insulin and this causes low blood sugar.

Dave said when Maureen was finally diagnosed, it all made sense.

"We looked at the symptoms and just went tick, tick, tick, she had all of them," he said.

"They also found seven tumours in my liver and told me I had cancer, but thankfully these were later discovered to be benign," Maureen said.

"Insulinoma is so rare; there are only about 20 cases in Australia every year, which is why we think no one knew what it was because it's so uncommon."

Maureen is well again and her experience has given the pair a new lease on life.

"It's been a roller-coaster," the mother-of-three said.

"As a result we've suffered post-traumatic stress disorder," Dave said.

"But coming here is part of the healing process for us.

"When we first got here, the first week was very emotional, but we've made new, good memories."

"We want to celebrate life, because it's so short," Maureen said.

"I feel alive again."

Dave praised the BIG 4 park for their support, after they refunded their camping fees last year when their trip was cut short and encouraged them to return when Maureen had recovered.

Topics:  health illness visitor yeppoon hospital


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