A brave six-year-old boy who is battling an extremely rare tumour is the subject of an international journal by medical experts – because he is the only child in the world to be diagnosed with the condition.
George McIntosh, who used to live in Embleton, is fighting a series of inoperable tumours in the central nervous system of his spine and brain.
The condition is known as disseminated olligodendrial leptomeningeal tumour. Only nine adults throughout the globe are known to have it, but George’s case is the first time that medical experts have seen it in a youngster.
And last Thursday, the plucky lad, along with his older brother Archie, eight, who was born with syndactyly – with two of his fingers fused together – were asked to open a pop-up toy shop in Edinburgh’s Gyle Shopping Centre.
It will be open until Christmas Eve, raising vital funds for The Sick Kids Friends Foundation, which supports and complements the work of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh – where the siblings have both received treatment and care.
Their mother Julie, 41, who used to teach at the Duke’s Middle School, in Alnwick, said that her brave boys, who have endured crucial surgery, have been through so much in their short lives and she was ‘choked up’ at seeing them launch the shop.
She admits that life has been tough for the Chirnside-based family, including husband Ewan, 38, who works offshore in Africa for a total of six months each year.
She said: “Nothing can prepare you for when you go through something like this and it has totally changed our lives. It has been really hard and it is going to continue to be hard. But we have honed in on what is important and we appreciate every day. We have our kids and we enjoy all of the little things with them. They are a credit to us and I was so proud to see them launch the shop.”
George’s ordeal began on his mum’s 40th birthday, in October 2014. Aged five at the time, he was rushed to hospital after having a squint in his eye and he had surgery to reduce swelling on his brain.
Medical experts originally thought George had tuberculous (TB) meningitis and treated him for this, although this was unconfirmed.
But it wasn’t until June of this year, during a routine scan, that they realised it was something else, and it was subsequently discovered that he had the rare tumour.
Julie said: “Thankfully, it is low grade and is not malignant. Because he is the only child in the world who is known to have this, a lot of his treatment is experimental and we just take it day by day.
“He was a puzzle for nine months and now he is unique, and medical experts are working on an international journal which will highlight his condition and his symptoms. I hope it raises awareness for other families.”
George, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, has had a number of major surgeries and has had plates and shunts fitted in his head.
“He is full of hardware,” Julie adds. George is due for a scan on Tuesday, before he turns seven on December 19.
Meanwhile, brother Archie was born with conjoined fingers, with his little finger and ring finger on his right hand fused together. He has already had two operations – the first at Newcastle RVI to separate the fingers, before a second one two weeks ago to straighten his ring finger. He will require further surgery, but Julie said that the most recent operation was a success.
While both siblings have gone through so much already, Julie believes that their ordeals have created a special bond between them and has brought them closer together.