A HEARTBROKEN mum has issued a warning to other parents after her daughter received a devastating diagnosis.
Belinda Bryant thought Lexi, seven, was vomiting because she had “stuffed her face” at a family party on April 17.
But when the schoolgirl was still being sick a week later, her parents Belinda and Luke, both 30, became concerned something more serious was going on.
They took her to their local GP but Belinda believes doctors “failed” Lexi as she claims the youngster was sent home from twenty separate hospital visits over the next five weeks.
The mum-of-two says doctors at East Surrey Hospital repeatedly sent her on her way and refused to do further testing as Lexi always “bounced back”.
Lexi’s condition became so severe she was vomiting blood and lost weight rapidly.
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Eventually scans and tests revealed in June that she has a cancerous brain tumour – and a 50 per cent chance of survival.
Belinda said: "At first you don't think it's something serious because they're just being sick – you don't immediately think 'my child's got a brain tumour'.
"You think of the other things like food poisoning or a bug from school but if any parent starts seeing these signs in a child, please get them checked out.”
A spokesperson for the hospital said they are “deeply saddened” by the news and are now “reviewing” the care they provided to Lexi.
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Belinda, from Horsham, West Sussex, said Lexi became sick two days after the family party.
"I just thought she'd stuffed her face too much at the party because kids tend to indulge at parties," she said.
"So I left it for a little while and didn't send her to school in case it was a sickness bug or food poisoning.
"Then the sickness started going on for longer, it went on for like a week and I'm now getting concerned because it's been going on for so long.
"She was constantly being sick and nothing was staying down. She started getting really lethargic and tired, just sleeping all the time and was going downhill.”
Back and forth
Belinda claims the GP detected Lexi had a urine infection, and the following week, an E.coli infection.
She was sent to East Surrey Hospital for antibiotics, but after an overnight stay, Lexi spent five hours vomiting the next morning.
Belinda says doctors sent them home that afternoon, “convinced that she was going to get better”.
The mum claims she begged doctors to do scans to rule out any issues with her head, but they said there was "not enough medical evidence to warrant" them.
Lexi was repeatedly readmitted over the next few weeks.
Belinda said: “Lexi stopped vomiting for a couple of days but then she started again and it was getting worse and lasting longer.
“It was eight to nine hours and that was going on for five days straight.
"I phoned the doctors again and took her straight in and they could see that she had got worse.
"They did all the tests on her again [at a local hospital] and weren't worried because she was bouncing back again and was full of beans.
"So we got sent home again in a couple of hours and a few days after Lexi was being sick again which they couldn't understand.
"They said 'we can't do anything for her because she's bouncing back quickly' and within 24 hours Lexi went downhill to the point I had to call an ambulance because she had burst a blood vessel and was bringing up blood.
"We got rushed to hospital in an ambulance and there was a paediatric nurse who had seen us before and she spoke to the doctors.
"She said 'this little girl has been admitted multiple times, she needs a CT scan' so then they did end up doing the CT scan.
"By this time it's been about five weeks of Lexi vomiting nearly every day. They have failed my little girl."
The CT scan discovered the true cause of Lexi’s sickness on June 6.
Belinda said: "I was devastated, I was lost for words. We [parents] were both very shaken up by the news because you don't think it's going to happen to your child until it does.
"The next thing I knew I had an ambulance crew standing in front of me saying 'we're blue-lighting you to St George's [in Tooting, London] right now. It happened very, very quickly.”
Doctors at St George's fitted a shunt to relieve some of the pressure which was causing severe headaches and light sensitivity.
An MRI a few weeks later showed Lexi also had a spinal tumour as a result of the brain tumour, which was "another horrible blow” for the family.
A biopsy of the spine tumour on July 8 confirmed the family's worst fear – Lexi's had cancer, but the grade is not yet clear.
Belinda said: "The consultant at St George's said Lexi has had this [brain] tumour for about six months.
"The tumour is growing rapidly and it has grown more since she last had an MRI.
"It's very aggressive and it is life-threatening. Lexi's got a 50 percent chance of survival.
"It's heartbreaking to hear as her mum."
Lexi began intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, Surrey, on Thursday 4 August.
The hospital has provided the family with a flat nearby for the duration of Lexi's first block of treatment.
But Belinda and Luke have both been forced to give up work to be there for their daughter, putting them under mounting financial pressure.
They are also having to juggle caring for their other child, Callum, 11.
The couple are now fundraising to help relieve some of the financial strain, including travel costs.
Belinda warned: "You know your child as a parent. Keep fighting and do not give up until you get the answers you need.
"If you've taken them to the hospital and they've run all the normal tests and they've come back clear, ask for those further tests to be done and don't take no for an answer.
"That's the lesson we have had to learn."
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A spokesperson for Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: "I am deeply saddened to hear this story and now that it has been brought to our attention we are immediately reviewing the care we provided.
"We would be very keen to speak with the family to understand more and to involve them in our review."
Symptoms of brain tumours in children
Around 500 children and young people in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year, according to the Brain Tumour Charity.
While brain tumours are rare, it is important to be aware of brain tumour symptoms:
- Persistent headaches, particularly in the morning
- Changes in vision, such as blurriness
- Nausea and persistent vomiting
- Balance problems
- Behaviour changes
- Abnormal head position
- Delayed puberty
- Delayed/stunted growth
- Excessive thirst
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