Parents spread message of brain tumours in children

Lawrence McGinty

Former Science and Medical Editor

David Kershaw hands out leaflets in the playground Credit: ITV News

Karen showed me the calender with her and her friends stark naked in a different pose for every month. Just like the movie. Why did they do it? To raise money for research into brain tumours.

But why Karen, a respectable sister in a paediatric ward at Luton and Dunstable Hospital?

Karen and her bright nine-year-old Ben told me when I met them at the hospital. Because there, three years ago, their world changed forever when Ben was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Looking back, Karen can see all the warning signs. Ben used to fall asleep at school. He became moody. His smile turned down on one side. And then on holiday Ben was holding his right arm clasped to his chest.

As a paediatric nurse, Karen was better equipped than most parents to put the clues together. She rushed Ben to her hospital and within 24 hours he was transferred to Addenbrooke's in Cambridge where surgeons removed 80 percent of a massive brain tumour.

Ben sparkled as he told me he can now play badminton and even manage a double-handed backhand. But he and Karen know that surgeons couldn't remove 20 percent of the tumour because it might have caused too much brain damage. They're watching him like a hawk and he could still need more treatment, like chemo or radiotherapy.

Other children fare worse. There are a hundred different kinds of brain tumours and Ben's is one of the least aggressive. Every year, 400-500 children develop brain tumours and two bus-loads of them die.

One of them was Jake. He died four years ago when he was only two.

I watched his father David Kershaw handing out cards listing the symptoms to watch out for to parents in the playground of Propps Hall primary school is Failsworth, North Manchester. His rich Lancastrian tones pealed out as he handed the credit-card sized reminders to kids and parents alike: "Give it to your mam and dad".

And that's the point really. A massive voluntary effort by parents to warn others to watch out for the early signs of a disease that could prove fatal.

All this happened on the day it came out that bankers were trying to rig their interest rates. What a contrast between the acquisitive greed of the traders and the selfless work of hundreds of people in a charity with only one aim: to save young lives.

If you would like more information visit the HeadSmart website. I also describe the symptoms to look out for in this video:

  • This is the second of a two-part series on brain tumours. See the first report from June 28th here.