Harry, six, is forced to travel away from home for brain tumour treatment
LITTLE Harry St Ledger is being forced to travel across the country for treatment after being diagnosed with a potentially lethal brain tumour.
Harry, six, is undergoing radiotherapy after the rare tumour was discovered when he had an ear infection.
But now he and his family are having to travel from his Portchester home to London for radiotherapy after a paediatric oncologist stopped working at Southampton, where he was being treated.
Harry and his mum will stay in London while he has treatment for five days a week for six weeks.
Yesterday the youngster started his radiotherapy treatment at University College Hospital in a special mask painted like Spiderman.
There are limited treatment options for his condition, mum Fiona Lear said.
She explained: ‘After that the pathway is, sadly, one of rapid deterioration and the average survival time after diagnosis is just nine to 12 months. At this stage we can’t begin to think what may lie ahead if this doesn’t work.
‘I am angry to think that Harry will have to live away from the security and comfort of his own home during treatment as being able to sleep in his own bed and have his own things around him every night would be such a comfort.’
Fiona added: ‘Harry is aware that he has something in his brain and his sister Emonie, who is eight and adores Harry, has a good sense of what is going on.’
The Castle Primary School pupil is an avid Pompey fan along with his dad Cairan St Ledger, who runs HSL Outdoor Cleaning. They have had support from the club with a home visit from Harry’s favourite players Conor Chaplin and Kal Naismith.
The youngster, who also has autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), was diagnosed last week after getting an ear infection at the start of the year.
Fiona added: ‘Harry had an MRI scan followed by what should have been a procedure lasting just minutes.
‘An unbearable three hours later I was told I needed to get my partner Cairan to the hospital and we were given the devastating news that Harry had a brain tumour.
‘I went into shock and I racked my brains to think if there had been any signs that would have meant we would have known about this sooner, but of course there was nothing.’
The family are concerned Harry’s ASD could make the treatment harder.
Fiona said: ‘No-one knows how his autism will affect the way he responds.’
A spokesman for University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘While we have no shortage of therapy radiographers in our oncology service, our paediatric clinical oncologist has sadly moved to a new hospital.
‘We are therefore in discussion with colleagues at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust about the future organisation of this service.’
CHARITY SUPPORTS FAMILY
Harry was diagnosed last week with a suspected diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).
That was after a straightforward procedure to treat what was thought to be an ear infection revealed a sinister growth in his brain.
Mum Fiona Lear explained: ‘We weren’t far into the new year when Harry became ill with an ear infection.
‘With the help of antibiotics it cleared up but, two weeks later, the infection was back.
‘Just a few days after that it was as if his face had collapsed on one side.’
The family were sent to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, where the problem was put down to a middle ear infection.
However, a CT scan showed an anomaly and a few hours later the family were told Harry had a brain tumour.
Brain Tumour Research, which funds a network of Centres of Excellence, including its flagship at the University of Portsmouth, is supporting the family.
The charity’s Research Manager, Katie Sheen, explained: ‘DIPG is a specific type of brainstem glioma which usually occurs in children between five and seven.
‘The cells infiltrate the surrounding nerves and are difficult to remove surgically. Therefore the treatment that is available is limited.’