Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Wonder boy recovers after op for rare brain tumour

An Ulster dad told today how his little boy, who had been at death's door with a rare brain tumour that UK doctors could not treat, has now made an astonishing recovery - against all the odds.

In an interview with the North West Telegraph, Seamus Gilmour described his brave son Pearce as "a walking miracle".

"I feared we would not see his 10th birthday," Seamus said. "But he has defied everyone by getting back to full health. He is now 12 and a normal, healthy young boy. He's a wee miracle.

"Looking at Pearce today and what he was like then is incredible. My message to parents of sick children is to never give up hope. We never ever gave up even when it was looking really bleak. Miracles do happen."

Pearce has now got the all-clear from the specialist doctor in America who was able to treat the tumour that was gradually killing the youngster.

It was another key milestone in the 12-year-old's remarkable road to recovery.

Little over two years ago, time was running out for Pearce, with the tumour slowly squeezing his brain tissue.

After being given no hope of survival when the unusual tumour was diagnosed in 2005, Mary Clare McCullagh, a teacher at Pearce's former school, St John's Primary in Coleraine, began a global search for help.

The family were at their lowest ebb when, following a MRI scan, doctors diagnosed a tumour which they believed to be a diffuse brainstem glioma.

Mr Gilmore said they were told it could not be treated and that "death was inevitable".

By chance, Ms McCullagh came across an article in Readers Digest about how Dr Fred Epstein, a director of paediatric neurosurgery at the New York University Medical Centre, saved a boy's life despite the youngster suffering from "two virtually inoperable" tumours.

There then began many months of long searches on the internet, trawls through medical books and journals, visits to the family doctor and transatlantic calls.

Eventually, the family made a breakthrough when paediatric neurosurgeon, Dr Rick Abbott, who trained under Dr Epstein, finally spoke to Ms McCullagh on the phone.

Dr Abbott, who works and teaches at the Albert Einstein Medical Centre in the Bronx, said he felt he could operate safely on Pearce's tumour which he felt, although unusual, was benign - but if left untreated could kill.

The Telegraph ran a story on Pearce's plight - and carried a desperate appeal for help from his dad and mum Sophie.

Within hours of the paper hitting the streets we had dozens of pledges of support from big-hearted readers to our Appeal Fund to send the youngster to the US for the operation that offered him his only hope of survival.

In all, more than £40,000 was raised in just a few days. It had been one of the Tele's biggest ever responses to a cash appeal.

Within days, Pearce was off with his family for an appointment with Dr Abbot in the Bronx.

At the time, the surgeon said the youngster needed the operation as soon as possible. "Right now, Pearce is right at the edge of tolerance," he said

Pearce came through the six-hour operation - and then faced a long road back to health.

Now, though, he's fully recovered and does not require any further treatment.

"He's back to normal," Seamus said. "He's going from strength to strength. We cannot get him into the house. He's always out playing golf or football. He's living life to the full."

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