Talented singer dies after rare brain condition mistaken for pregnancy complications

July 12, 2010 | by | 3 Comments

A talented singer who is married to one of Britain’s top songwriters died after her rare brain condition was repeatedly mistaken for pregnancy complications.

Stunning Sally Meehan, 39, suffered agonising headaches for six months while she was pregnant with her second child.

She begged doctors for help but was repeatedly told she had pregnancy-related symptoms.

One doctor said the headaches were caused by a slipped disc while another told her it was just a trapped nerve.

A third doctor said her migraines were hormone-related and one suggested they were being triggered by an addiction to painkillers.

When she finally had an MRI scan in March – three months after giving birth to daughter Sophia – doctors discovered she was suffering from chiari malformation.

The condition – which effects 1 in 1,000 people – is a deformity at the base of the skull which crushes the brain stem into the spinal column causing a blockage of spinal fluid.

The mum-of-two underwent an operation on June 23 to relieve pressure on the brain stem but she died three days later of heart failure.

Sally – wife of top musician and songwriter Paul, 38, who penned a string of hits for boy band JLS – was a talented singer and had hoped to compete on the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.

Yesterday (Thurs) her devastated older sister Nancy Parry, 42, said: ”It’s a tragic end for a 39-year-old – she was so talented.

”Her husband Paul says his world is falling apart. She lived to sing and her ambition was never fulfilled.

”She was a wonderfully talented, caring person with a fantastic sense of humour.

”She had planned to go on the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent but both times she applied she discovered that she was pregnant and was unable to take part.”

Nancy, a care worker from Filton, Bristol, added that Sally had complained of ”crippling headaches” for months before her death.

She said: ”She was in so much pain nearly all the time. She woke up with headaches and went to bed with headaches.

”She took paracetemol but one doctor accused her said the headaches were caused because she was addicted to painkillers.

”When the doctors finally realised what was wrong with her it was too late.

”Her doctors’ surgery in Hampshire said they have never heard of the condition and are never likely to come across it again.

”We have been told you can be born with it but it doesn’t affect you until you are in your 20s or 30s.

”Some people apparently lead a normal life with it and others don’t.

”We were told there was only a small possibility of death and the surgeon said he had only lost two people in the last 20 years.

”After the operation she kept saying to me ‘It feels like my head’s been cut off’.

”When a nurse told her she was going to be fine, she said ‘I think I’m dying’.”

Just three days after the operation at Southampton General Hospital, Sally fell unconscious and died of heart failure on June 26.

Tragically, Sally had planned to apply for this year’s Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor shows after twice being forced to pull out after falling pregnant.

Two years ago she was due to audition for X Factor but was forced to abandon her dream after she got pregnant with her first child Harrison.

Last year she was through to the auditions for Britain’s Got Talent but again withdrew after getting pregnant with Sofia.

Sister Nancy said: ”It is so heartbreaking because singing was her dream.

”After twice having to put off her dream she really wanted to give it a try this year and she would have made it too.

”She was brilliant and had the voice of an angel.”

Sally, who toured Dubai and the West Country as a singer before falling in love with songwriter Paul and moving to Hampshire, once mistook Peter Garbiel for a handyman when she visited his recording studio near Bath.

Mum Jocelyn Briffett, 68, said: ”That was so like Sally, she could connect with anybody no matter how rich or how poor.”

A family friend said: ”The family want to get the funeral over with and wait until an inquest comes back before commenting on whether the doctors were at fault.

”Clearly the doctors did misdiagnose the condition, which is quite rare, and it would appear that, had an MRI scan been done earlier, she might still be where today.”

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Comments (3)

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  1. karen gorman-hawkins says:

    when will doctors take this condition seriously, I feel for Sallys Family greatly, i was in the same situation myself as Sally, I was diagnosed with chiari at the age of 38, the pressure of my brain had even broken one of my vertabrae clean off, I had complained to doctors since 16yrs old & not one took me seriously.

    I have now moved Drs surgeries and one dr listened to me, i had decompression surgery in 2008 but am far from pain free, the damage has already been done, im now waiting for surgery for a tethered spinal cord.

    The earlier this condition is diagnosed & decompression surgery is done the better the outcome, please please someone raise awareness of this condition, I have alot of chiari friends so it cant be that rare.

    Thanks, Karen

  2. karen gorman-hawkins says:

    when will doctors take this condition seriously, I feel for Sallys Family greatly, i was in the same situation myself as Sally, I was diagnosed with chiari at the age of 38, the pressure of my brain had even broken one of my vertabrae clean off, I had complained to doctors since 16yrs old & not one took me seriously.

    I have now moved Drs surgeries and one dr listened to me, i had decompression surgery in 2008 but am far from pain free, the damage has already been done, im now waiting for surgery for a tethered spinal cord.

    The earlier this condition is diagnosed & decompression surgery is done the better the outcome, please please someone raise awareness of this condition, I have alot of chiari friends so it cant be that rare.

    Thanks, Karen

  3. NICKNAME says:

    Stop hack the program!!!

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