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Mother's Google search helped save son with brain tumour's life

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 20/01/2017 Ross Lydall

clairelloydb-1.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited clairelloydb-1.jpg A mother has told how a Google search helped save her nine-year-old son’s life by indicating that he was displaying the symptoms of a brain tumour.

Claire Lloyd, 39, typed in “child with persistent vomiting” when son Jack had been sick for a week and medication from his GP had failed to have an impact.

She found the HeadSmart website, which lists the most common signs of childhood brain tumours, and she and postman husband Peter planned to speak to the GP again the next morning.

But when Jack later began to suffer severe head and neck pain they took him to A&E at Princess Royal hospital in Orpington. Two hours later their “world fell apart” when a CT scan showed he had a brain tumour.

Jack was transferred to King’s College hospital, in Denmark Hill, where a rare pineal tumour was found in the centre of his brain.

He underwent emergency surgery that day to release a life-threatening build-up of fluid. Three weeks later, on October 14, Jack had a 12-hour operation to remove as much of the non-cancerous tumour as possible.

There was further drama when he had two huge seizures six days later, nine hours after being discharged home. His 12-year-old sister Holly raised the alarm.

The drugs Jack was given to stop the seizures caused severe breathing problems on the way back to hospital.

The ambulance was intercepted by a London’s Air Ambulance fast-response car and its specialist medics intubated Jack - taking over his breathing - by torchlight in a supermarket car park.

The family, from New Addington, told their story today in support of a campaign to further reduce the time it takes to diagnose childhood brain tumours. About 500 children and young people are diagnosed each year and a quarter will die.

Since HeadSmart was launched by the Brain Tumour Charity in 2011, the average diagnosis time has fallen from 13 to 6.5 weeks. Campaigners want to get it down to under four weeks.

Ms Lloyd, a mother of four and former nursery nurse, said: “We are so thankful that we found HeadSmart that day.

"Having that information was vital in getting Jack the care he needed quickly. It played a huge part in saving his life.

“That was when we knew we had to get him to hospital. Because of what we’d read, we didn’t hesitate to take him to A&E.”

Jack, who has autism and Type 1 diabetes, lost 80 per cent of his vision and his short-term memory. Because of the tumour’s position, neurosurgeons were forced to leave its base untouched. 

Ms Lloyd said Holly and brothers Callum, 18, Ryan, 14, were “incredibly proud” of Jack.

“He has been so courageous and strong,” she said.

“His ability to smile throughout his surgeries has been incredible. He continues to be the amazing, smart, funny, kind and cheeky boy he was before this nightmare journey began.

“His vision is almost fully restored and his short term memory has improved a lot. He still gets tired very easily and processing some information is taking a bit longer than before the surgery.

"He will need to take anti-epilepsy medication for at least a year but thankfully he has had no more seizures.”

HeadSmart, a partnership with Nottingham university and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, was relaunched on Monday at the Royal College of General Practitioners. Doctors were taught the signs of childhood brain tumours.

Hayley Epps, of the Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Brain tumours kill more children in the UK than any other type of cancer. HeadSmart has two aims: to save lives and reduce long-term disability by bringing down diagnosis times.”

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