Last night the second episode of the BBC documentary series “Great Ormond Street” aired on BBC2. Called “A chance at life”, it focused on General Surgery and featured ten-year-old Eliana, who had a 3kg tumour in her abdomen.
In 2009, Eliana, at age eight, did not appear to be growing, was not eating properly and felt tired all the time so concerned parents Tara and Paul took her to see a paediatrician who ordered a scan. They thought she might have tonsillitis and were certainly not expecting the news that she had an enormous lump in her abdomen. Fearing it might be malignant, Eliana was immediately referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
“At first we didn’t know if it was cancer,” recalls mum Tara, “so we were absolutely devastated.”
Fortunately, it wasn’t – but that didn’t mean things were going to be straightforward. In order to attempt to shrink the tumour Eliana underwent 15 months of draining chemotherapy.
“They decided that if they could shrink it they would rather do that. Eliana was so tired,” remembers Tara, “and she couldn’t walk far… she missed two thirds of year four and had to have extra tutoring.”
Sadly the chemotherapy was unsuccessful so surgery was the only chance of survival otherwise the tumour would just keep on growing. Tara recalls: “We knew we were in the best place. There were lots of doctors looking after her so we were able to get a second, third and fourth opinion.”
Surgeon Mr Edward Kiely and his team then undertook this very risky surgery in which they attempted to separate off the vital structures and take the lump out. During the operation it was discovered that the tumour was so large it was squashing her left kidney and needed to be delicately freed piece by piece from the vital organs. The operation took nine hours and when the biggest piece of the tumour was removed it weighed in at over 3kgs.
Eliana’s operation was a complete success and she made a full and quick recovery on Squirrel ward, leaving the hospital to return home after only six days. A mere two months after that she was back at school.
“She’s amazing,” says Tara. “She can do anything any normal 11-year-old can. She’s active and plays netball and goes swimming. Before the operation Eliana was so tired and could not walk far. In fact she couldn’t do much at all. The chemotherapy was also very, very draining for her. The difference in Eliana’s health and well-being now as compared to before the operation is huge.
“My husband and I feel overwhelmed and indebted to Great Ormond Street Hospital, Ed Kiely and his team for doing such a superb job in all areas of Eliana’s care. They were absolutely amazing and we cannot thank them enough.”
“Eliana is having check-ups every three months and we feel reassured that if the tumour did come back they would find it very quickly.”
Find out more about last night’s episode of Great Ormond Street on our hospital website, including interviews with surgeon Ed Kiely and Joe Curry.