Australian nurse who dismissed her symptom as seasickness could no longer walk, speak or smile

While walking around on a cruise ship with her friends in March 2020, Tori Dent got dizzy.

The active and healthy Brisbane nurse dismissed it as seasickness and continued to roam the boat with a big smile as she enjoyed her holiday at sea.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Australian nurses’ journey to walking and smiling again.

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But when the 28-year-old made it back onto land, the dizzy spells didn’t stop.

“I thought that was a normal feeling after a week at sea on a cruise ship,” Dent tells 7Life.

Until her symptoms worsened — and she started having trouble swallowing.

Tori Dent was on a “girl’s trip” when she noticed dizzy spells. Credit: delivered
The outgoing nurse loved to travel and meet new people. Credit: delivered

“I just couldn’t eat,” she says.

“I was uncomfortable but I was blase and thought it would pass.”

A doctor diagnosed Dent with dizziness and put her on medication.

“It was difficult to swallow the pills, even with water,” she says.

“Even when I took them, they didn’t seem to work.”

It was before the COVID shots and the nurse was also told to have a PCR test.

Tori Dent before the diagnosis. Credit: delivered
Dent has been posting updates on her road to recovery on her Instagram Credit: delivered

But while waiting for the test at a hospital clinic, she took a swerve.

“While waiting to register for the test, I felt incredibly dizzy, which made it difficult to stand and walk,” she recalls.

“A doctor told me to go to the emergency room after my test.

“The same doctor took me to the emergency room in a wheelchair.”

Unknown diagnosis

Dent had a blood test and a CT scan. Both showed no abnormalities.

“[I was]upset, helpless, frustrated, confused,” she explains.

“I still didn’t believe I was that bad and I didn’t have an answer.

“It also made me feel like it was in my head and that I was a hypochondriac.”

Dent’s active and healthy lifestyle was turned on its head after the diagnosis. Credit: delivered

However, an MRI of her brain would turn her life upside down.

A small growth about the size of a watermelon seed was discovered on her brainstem.

Doctors suspected the growth was a slow-growing, rare, benign tumor called hemangioblastoma.

“I was sort of relieved when I was told that,” she says.

“There was a reason for my symptoms.”

Because of its small size, Dent was told it was inoperable, so she began focusing on managing her symptoms instead.

“I figured that if it didn’t grow quickly or drastically, over time my symptoms would be manageable,” she says.

Rapid growth

But within a week of being admitted to the hospital, Dent’s ability to walk and eat began to deteriorate.

“I had double vision, couldn’t drink water and lost feeling in my right arm and hand,” she says.

She was transferred to another hospital, where a second MRI showed the tumor had “grown by a third”.

Dent’s first MRI showing the tumor on her brain vapor. Credit: Instagram/@tori.jean.dent

Neurosurgeons no longer suspected hemangioblastoma.

The nurse underwent emergency surgery to try and remove as much of the growth as possible.

“I was excited (for the surgery) because I just wanted to remove it,” she says, adding that surgeons were able to remove 80 percent of the growth.

However, within just three weeks of the operation, the tumor was rapidly growing back – it was now 4cm in size.

Tori circled the little one to show her followers on Instagram. Credit: Instagram/@tori.jean.dent

“(It) wasn’t expected to grow that way,” she says.

Dent was now unable to swallow, walk or speak.

Her ability to smile was also taken away – when half her face became paralyzed.

“I didn’t realize what effect it could have[on my body],” she says.

She would spend 19 days in intensive care recovering from the tumor’s growth.


In early May 2020, the tumor, noted on Dent’s hospital records as an “undifferentiated brainstem lesion,” began to shrink.

Nobody could explain how.

From mid-May, Dent was fitted with a tracheostomy – to make it easier for her to breathe.

Dent in the hospital with a tracheostomy. Credit: delivered

This was removed in September 2020, which she describes as her “proudest achievement”.

“I still can’t think of anything worse,” she wrote in a post on Instagram.

“This is my proudest achievement and was the most important and challenging.”

Dent had a nasogastric tube placed after her first operation until early May. Credit: delivered

Dent spent 14 months in hospital learning to walk, talk and smile again – an ongoing struggle for the active and outgoing nurse.

Her friends and family were “shocked and in disbelief” at the condition but didn’t leave her side.

“My friends and family came over for me – they organized and took care of everything I needed,” she says.

“Everything that happened behind the scenes, I have no idea.”

In late May 2021, Dent was discharged from the hospital after 14 months. Credit: delivered

Dent was released in May 2021 “to live independently”.

“Everything needs more energy and more time,” she says now about life.

“It took me a long time to learn time management with my new circumstances.

“I know how to live and lead my life, but physically I can’t do everything.”

impact on life

To date, the nurse has endured 10 surgeries and procedures, nine of which have contributed to her recovery.

She also underwent “resuscitation surgery” to restore facial symmetry and muscles.

And she is scheduled to undergo her 11th surgery in March 2023.

Dent has been learning to walk – as has her little niece – since the cancer turned her life upside down. Credit: delivered

However, Dent’s life is not the same as the tumor has devastated her life.

She uses a mobility aid to walk, suffers from facial paralysis, vocal cord paralysis, and “various eye problems” from cranial nerve damage.

And she still has dizzy spells.

“I’ve always valued time, but I didn’t think that could happen to me,” she says.

“I was out and about, socializing and working.

“I can’t work yet, I don’t travel and socializing is different.

“I lived a very active life prior to this event and am unable to participate in all of the physical activities that I used to love and enjoy.”

People’s looks

Due to her facial paralysis, she can’t help but notice people staring at her.

“I try to imagine they’re just curious,” she explains.

“I hate my looks, but I try not to think about it too much.

“If I’m feeling insecure, I’ll try to avoid facial expressions to keep my face reasonably symmetrical.”

Dent, who is breastfeeding her nephew here, has practiced smiling again as part of facial resuscitation exercises. Credit: delivered

But the nurse hasn’t let that stop her from embracing her social side.

“I avoid meeting new people, but if I’m in a situation like that, I’ll try to get involved,” she explains.

“I used to be a very confident person, so I feel like some of my confidence still shines through.”

ongoing fight

Adversity doesn’t hold her back – she tries to find new activities and other ways to enjoy life.

“I don’t intend to let this event define my life any more than it already is,” she says.

Tori continues to train at her gym and even posts climbing videos on Instagram. Credit: delivered

Her persistence and determination can be seen on Instagram, where she regularly posts videos and photos from workouts.

And she urges others to speak up and ask questions about their health.

“For anyone who has any form of lesion or tumor in the brain, all I have to say is ask questions about anything,” she says.

“Knowledge is powerful.”

A GoFundMe was set up to help Tori with the surgery to get her Eye surgically corrected.

For more engaging health and wellness content, visit 7Life on Facebook.

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James Brien

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