No laughing matter ... Carolyn Gibbons' rare condition could kill herSWNS.com
A SIMPLE laugh could kill this woman — because her BRAIN is bursting out of her HEAD.Carolyn Gibbons, 23, suffers from a condition which means her brain is too big for her skull, blocking the flow of fluid to her head.
The teacher endures daily seizures, blurred vision, slurred speech and crippling migraines and any sudden movements feel like her head "is about to pop".
Doctors have warned that any fit of the giggles could cause her brain to push out of her skull and herniate into the top of her spinal column — potentially killing her.
Carolyn, from Hythe, Hampshire, said: "At first I didn't think the condition sounded too bad and I thought the drugs would control it.
"But as my symptoms got worse I realised the severity of my condition - my brain is too big to fit in my skull.
"I can't do any of the things normal people do. Any jerking movements result in horrific pain.
"I can't even laugh too hard. If I laugh out loud too vigorously it can cause pressure to build up and moving my head back and forth could cause me to pass out and, in the worst case, die.
"The doctors have told me my brain could literally split out of my head.
"It's horrific to think about so I try to live one day at a time."
Carolyn was laughing at one of her pupil's jokes when she passed out during a class in April last year.
She was rushed to Southampton General Hospital where an MRI scan showed the laughing fit had caused her brain to herniate into her spine.
The excess brain tissue was blocking the flow of spinal fluid to her head causing a bulge to appear at the back of her head.
She was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari Malformation and given a daily cocktail of 50 pills and painkillers to control the pressure building in her spine.
Carolyn was forced to give up her job as a supply teacher at a secondary school after her symptoms got worse.
She suffers from extreme insomnia, leaving her sleepless for up to 60 hours at a time.
On July 29 this year surgeons removed part of her vertebrae and a 2.5cm square slice of skull to make room for her over-sized brain.
But she suffered an allergic reaction to the medical patch used to seal the hole in her skull and developed chemical meningitis.
A pocket of fluid was also left in her spine and she may need another op to fix a shunt to drain it off before she can live a normal life.
Carolyn, who lives with her mother Catherine, 42, and two-year-old brother Jacob, added: "It's early days but hopefully I'll recover.
"It's a relatively new condition as before MRI scans doctors had no way of diagnosing it.
"No one really seems to understand the illness. I feel really helpless.
"I've lost a lot of co-ordination - one woman in the street even shouted at me because she thought I was drunk in the middle of the day.
"I just hope the drastic surgery I've had resolves the problem so I can properly laugh again without risking my life."
Marysia Pudlo-Debef, who runs a specialist website for Arnold Chiari Malformation sufferers, said the condition is "misunderstood".
It affects one in 1,000 people and kills six sufferers each year.
She said: "It is a nasty disorder which makes people's lives a nightmare.
"The operation to relieve the pressure on the brain can take 12 months to have an effect on the patient.
"There is no known cure or cause for the disorder and this is why more research into it is desperately needed."