A MOTHER has this week told how she feared her two-year-old daughter would die after claiming a doctor and medical staff failed to spot a brain tumour the size of an orange.
It was only after Catherine Chiputi showed video footage from her phone that they realised that two-year-old Ruby was seriously ill.
Her daughter’s ordeal started on May 9 this year when Ruby did not appear well and was unsteady on her legs.
Catherine, of Deepdene Gardens, Ore, said: “This seemed very odd to me so I took her to see the doctor at Shankill Surgery in Ore. The nursing consultant just looked in Ruby’s ears and said it was a non-urgent case, so gave us an outpatient’s appointment for three weeks time.
“Ruby’s reflexes and eyes weren’t checked at the surgery. I thought she had suffered a stroke. Unhappy with this I took her to A&E at the Conquest that same evening as I wanted a paediatrician to look at her. I was told this would be impossible and I should wait for the outpatient’s appointment.
“I insisted a doctor look at Ruby at the Conquest. One did and he checked her temperature, ears and eyes and said Ruby looked fine, not to worry and we should go home.”
But the next day the toddler took a turn for the worse so Ruby’s mum took her back to Shankill Surgery.
Catherine said: “This time I showed my GP a video on my phone of Ruby trying to eat. She was not able to eat properly. The GP was concerned and booked us into the Conquest.”
Catherine and her husband Tapera had to wait several hours at the hospital, explaining their daughter’s symptoms.
It was only after Catherine showed doctors the video of Ruby that they decided to do a CAT scan, she told the Observer.
She added: “This was done in the middle of the night. Afterwards we were told that Ruby had a mass on her brain and had to go straight to Kings College Hospital. We arrived there at 3am by ambulance. An operation was done to relieve the pressure in Ruby’s brain and an MRI was done.”
Ruby’s parents were told the harrowing news that their baby daughter had a tumour in her brain stem the size of a small orange.
The toddler underwent a six-hour operation to remove the tumour. But a biopsy revealed it was a malignant grade 4 tumour called medulloblastoma. Ruby will now need chemotherapy for at least a year and is still in hospital.
Her mum said: “Ruby has undergone three gruelling cycles of chemotherapy, spent almost three months living at
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the Royal Marsden in Sutton, Surrey and will be there for the rest of this year. She has suffered a lot as the chemotherapy is very strong and pretty relentless in its side effects. But on the bright side she is halfway through the course.
“The last MRI she had showed the tumour site is still clear. Ruby will need an MRI every three months for five years to check the cancer is still in remission.
“Although it has only been a few months for us as a family it feels like a lifetime. I really feel that there should be more awareness on brain tumours as very little is known of the symptoms. It is the most common cause of death in children in the UK and the vital thing for cancer is to spot it early enough.
“At Kings College the nurse said that at least three children come in a week with a brain tumour and it has been on the news that cancer in children is on the increase.
“As a parent who has seen the lack of skill in doctors at spotting the signs it is worrying that I had to push and push for them to take me seriously. If we had waited three weeks for that outpatient’s appointment Ruby would have died.”
In June the Observer reported on the plight of 34-year-old Maria Winchester from St Leonards, who underwent brain surgery to remove a tumour after she said doctors at the Conquest did not diagnose her symptoms on three occasions, despite her repeatedly complaining of headaches and dizziness.
Lizzie Allinson, spokesman for The Brain Tumour Charity, said more than 8,500 people are diagnosed with a primary brain tumour each year in the UK, 500 of whom are children and young people.
She said: “Our HeadSmart campaign was launched last year and was borne out of concern that brain tumours were taking longer to diagnose than in other countries. The symptoms of brain tumours can mimic the symptoms of other, less serious conditions.
“Earlier diagnosis reduces the treatment and can therefore reduce the long-term effects of a brain tumour. Ultimately the campaign can also save lives through education and awareness.”
Madeleine Mayhew, spokesman for NHS Sussex, said: “As no complaint had been made to the GP practice or hospital, we were not aware of Mrs Chiputi’s concerns.
“Now these have been raised with us, we have spoken to Mrs Chiputi directly and a full investigation is now under way.
“Complaints and concerns are always taken seriously and there is a process in place to ensure they are investigated fully.”
For more information about The Brain Tumour Charity log onto www.thebraintumourcharity.org.