‘Freak collapse’ of Sutton Coldfield tot led to discovery of inoperable brain tumour

Posted: 14th July 2022

Marissa Horan from New Oscott in Sutton Coldfield found out she had an inoperable brain tumour by chance when she collapsed after being sick at nursery

A terrifying collapse of a young girl from Sutton Coldfield led to the discovery of an inoperable brain tumour. Marissa Horan was aged just three-and-a-half when she was sick at nursery and then collapsed in April 2019.

Mum, Carly took her to an urgent care centre where medics there called an ambulance and she went under blue lights to Good Hope Hospital in the town for an urgent CT scan. That scan revealed a shadow on her brain.

Carly, who lives in New Oscott with Marissa, described the frightening moment and said: “I was on my way to pick Marissa up from nursery as staff said she had vomited, by the time I got to her and was putting her in the car she wasn’t moving and went all floppy like a ragdoll and was unconscious. I was sick with worry – I had no idea what was happening.”

Marissa had been suffering from chicken pox and the first thought was her collapse could be linked. Encephalitis, a swelling of the brain, affects 1 in 1,000 patients who have the common contagious infection.

But hospital staff ruled that out, with a consultant at Royal Stoke Hospital then spotting flat pigmented spots on Marissa’s skin which could be mistaken for bruises. The ‘café au lait marks’ are a sign of neurofibromatosis type 1, a genetic condition which causes ‘low -grade’ tumours – which are usually benign, to grow along nerves. With Marissa the tumour is said to have ‘developed spontaneously since birth’.

At that stage, the family did not know why Marissa had collapsed but mum Carly was thankful it had happened as it was the way her daughter’s brain tumour was discovered.

The 40-year-old, who works as a provider collaborative contract lead at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, said: “There was still no explanation as to why Marissa had collapsed as the team of healthcare professionals couldn’t find a medical reason for this. In light of what happened next, we still feel like Marissa collapsing was a saving grace to diagnosing her brain tumour.”

Marissa underwent further tests and an MRI scan and it was then that mum Carly was given the devastating news about her daughter’s brain tumour, known as a ‘low-grade optic pathway glioma’ caused by her genetic mutation, which given where it was growing on her brain could not be operated on.

The youngster then started a 70-week course of chemotherapy, but that too was hampered. Three weeks into the treatment she was found to be suffering an allergic reaction. But in July 2020 Marissa completed a more intense course of year-long chemotherapy and the six-year-old is now monitored with regular scans.

Mum Carly said a gathering was held to mark the end of her treatment which came just in time before her daughter started school. She said: “We had a socially distanced gathering for Marissa with our friends and family in the street due to lockdown restrictions.

“We had cakes to celebrate and Marissa got to ring the end of treatment bell with everyone cheering. She started school in September 2020 at the same time as her classmates, something we thought might be delayed due to her treatment.

“As a result of her diagnosis she is behind other children her age and has just been diagnosed with ADHD something very common for those who have nf1. Despite everything she’s been through she’s still the bright and happy girl she always was.”

Medical research charity Brain Tumour Research said brain tumours ‘kill more children than leukaemia and any other cancer’. In the UK 16,000 people a year are diagnosed with a brain tumour, with less than 12 per cent of those diagnosed surviving beyond five years, compared with an average of 50 per cent across all cancers

But historically just one per cent of funding for cancer research is spent on looking at brain tumours. The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.

Mel Tiley, a community development manager from Brain Tumour Research, said: “We’re sorry to hear about Marissa’s diagnosis and wish her well with her ongoing scans. Her story highlights the need for further research into understanding brain tumours from diagnosis to better treatment options.

“We’re grateful to the family for helping to raise awareness of the devastation that brain tumours and look forward to working with them in the future.”


Source: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/freak-collapse-sutton-coldfield-tot-24426265

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