Wigan woman completes 26-mile hike after brain bleed then gives medal to the surgeon who saved her

Bernie Burke gave her medal to neurosurgeon Helen Raffalli-Ebezzant. Credit: PA Images

A woman who took on a 26-mile hike just two months after suffering a brain haemorrhage has given her medal to the neurosurgeon who saved her life.

Bernie Burke, from Wigan, suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage in April 2023, only eight weeks before she was set to walk the Giant's Causeway Macmillan Mighty Hike in remembrance of her brother, who died of lung cancer.

The 61-year-old complained of a piercing headache and nausea and when a less invasive operation failed, she was taken to Salford Royal for emergency brain surgery.

Neurosurgeon Helen Raffalli-Ebezzant came in on her day off to perform the surgery.

Following the operation, Mrs Burke spent three weeks in intensive care but was determined to recover in time for the fundraising hike.

Mrs Burke, a finance specialist from Standish, was raising money in memory of her brother Anthony Larkin who died of lung cancer in 2022, aged 57.

Mrs Burke's son, Sean, completed the walk as well. Credit: PA Images

She said: “I told her and all the doctors and nurses I had to get through it because I had the Mighty Hike to do for Ant."

Mrs Burke completed the 26-mile walk with son Sean, 34, and handed her medal to Dr Raffalli-Ebezant afterwards.She said: “I was so incredibly lucky. I call myself the ‘walking miracle’.

"Helen’s skill and her professionalism and kindness saved my life without a doubt.“I’m indebted to her for life. I’ll never ever forget what Helen did for me. It’s a privilege to still be here. I’m blessed to be here.”

Dr Raffalli-Ebezant said: “It’s a very difficult thing to recover from a subarachnoid haemorrhage. You’re very tired. You’re very achy, so to be able to go out there and walk that whole marathon is such an achievement.

“I just came in and did my job - it was Bernie who took her recovery in her own hands and really ran with it and it was very inspirational for me to see that Bernie had been able to do that.“I have the Mighty Hike medal on my desk. It inspires me – and our trainees who see it and I tell them about Bernie.“It shows us that our work, while sometimes ending in sadness, can result in the most positive of outcomes for our patients.”Mrs Burke’s son Sean, who completed the walk with her, said: “Crossing the marathon finish line in Belfast arm-in-arm with my mum was a special moment.“I was so proud she did it against all odds, and made it look easy.”

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