Toddler just 14 months old dies from brain tumour one week after onset of vomiting


A much-loved 14-month old toddler died just a week after he started vomiting.

James Parker’s mum and dad Dean and Holly had no idea their tumours were growing in his brain until it was too late.

They lost James on March 6 after a horrific week where intensive brain surgery caused his heart to stop and restart and left him in a coma, reports the Daily Record.

Doctors and experts did everything they could to save the baby boy but the tumours were so aggressive that one neurosurgeon told the family he had seen nothing like in his 15-year career.

The couple, from Auchterarder in Perthshire, took James to a GP on February 24 after he had been vomiting consistently.

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James in hospital before surgery that couldn’t save him

Prior to his sickness there had been no signs that he was in any form of pain.

Dean said: “We want to speak out to try and help other parents who may be able to act sooner.

“Sadly we missed a lot of stuff because James showed no signs of anything until he started being sick all the time, every time he ate something.”

He added: “The doctors told us that children often have a way of hiding what is wrong with them.

“I think we would have had to go for CT scans almost every day of his life to have found it.”

James had Medulloblastoma an aggressive cancer which chemotherapy cannot treat, radiotherapy can be used but the family were told James would have been unlikely to survive this.

After a trip to the GP at St Margaret’s Hospital in Auchterarder on February 24 little James was taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for CT scans.

It was originally thought James might have swallowed something which was causing him to vomit.

Dean and Holly with Emmie, 8, and baby James

However, after scans suggested there may be something more serious he was transferred to Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh on February 26.

It was there that MRI scans revealed a brain tumour which was pushing on a nerve in James’ head causing him to be sick.

Further scans revealed tumours were sitting on almost every nerve in his brain controlling speech and his ability to walk.

More tumours were later discovered towards his spine.

James with mum Holly who has been left devastated by his death

James was taken in for intensive surgery on Wednesday, March 3 where surgeons discovered the true severity of the tumours which covered part of his skull.

As a result, the one-year-old began to bleed uncontrollably during the operation and medics had to work tirelessly to try and save his life.

“I think there were about 27 neurosurgeons and anaesthetists working to save him,” said Dean.

“His heart stopped once during the surgery which lasted about six hours.”

The operation successfully managed to stop the bleeding however Dean and Holly were told there was a possibility James’ organs could fail during the night.

Dad Dean with baby James

He was placed in an ICU ward where he remained in a coma on a ventilator.

On Friday March 5, a further operation known as a shunt was carried out to insert a drainage tube and relieve some of the pressure in his brain.

However, James tragically died the following day on March 6.

“We had to make the decision to take him off the ventilator,” said Dean.

“It was a very tough decision which we had to make after the operation went badly.

“He passed away in Holly’s arms.”

Dean said he and Holly are grateful to the staff at Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children who did everything they could to give James a peaceful passing.

He said: “It was not the hospital’s fault. One of the neurosurgeons told me that in his 15-year career he had never seen anything like it.

“You could see the fear and shock on their faces.

“They spent six hours saving his life and I feel there must have come a time where they could have given up but they didn’t.

“They got him to ICU which gave us a few days which we were really grateful for.”

He added: “The palliative care team were also fantastic and we cannot thank them enough.”

Dean and Holly had just days to come to terms with losing their baby.

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They were given the news that James would likely have had just six months to one year to live if he had managed to get through the coma.

Dean said: “The Wednesday was a horrible, horrible day.

“I think after the Wednesday I became a bit realistic about it and knew he would never be the same. My wife was a bit more hopeful about it.

“Even if he woke up from the coma the chances were he would have brain damage because his heart had stopped during the surgery and they had to perform CPR.”

Dean described the ordeal as living in a “nightmare” and hopes their story may help other families before things are too late.

He said: “It all happened in about the space of a week.

“Holly sat by his bedside and at one point I started to just walk around the hospital. It was surreal, like a nightmare and you are asleep and don’t know how to handle anything.”

Dean said James’s elder sister Emmie, 8, has been strong through the whole process and he and Holly are working to make things easier for her.

“She has been doing really well and we are focusing on helping her get back to school and get a routine as best we can.”

The family had wanted to donate James’ organs to help other children but due to the spread of the cancer they were unable to. However they have given tissue samples which may be able to help with future research.

A friend Kelly McPhee set up a  Go Fund Me page  to help with costs of the funeral, which took place on March 15.

Dean said: “We did not expect anything but the support has been really nice, we’ve had so many messages privately as well.”

Further information on signs and symptoms of brain tumours in children can be found from the  NHS here.

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