If your child was diagnosed with a brain tumour, you would want the best treatment there is.
But forget flying around the world and paying tens of thousands to a specialist clinic. The best is right here – in Sheffield.
Now Sheffield Children’s Hospital has become a world leader in the treatment of brain tumours following an £8 million investment. The hospital has two new operating theatres and the best collection of equipment for tackling brain tumours on the planet.
Crucially, they have linked an MRI scanner – the most advanced one there is – to a theatre room.
This means surgeons can guarantee that no tumour is left behind after an operation.
Mr Hesham Zaki, head of paediatric neurosurgery at the hospital, explained the importance of this.
“If you remove the entire tumour, the survival rate is around 80 per cent,” he said. “But if there is any tumour left behind the survival rate can drop to 30 per cent.
“Typically, 30 per cent of operations will leave some tumour behind.”
Mr Zaki said that, while the Children’s Hospital was already one of the best for removing entire tumours, the advance would mean many more lives are saved.
Having MRI and theatre linked also means the skull will only be opened once, cutting down on infection and trauma to the patient.
The ground-breaking technology allows medics to make a map of the patient’s brain. Mr Zaki described this as giving surgeons a ‘tom-tom for the brain’.
This ‘tom-tom’ guides surgeons around the controlling parts of the brain, which are invisible to the eye, directly to the tumour.
After the surgeon feels that surgery is complete, the patient will be slid back into the scanner again. If any tumour is left, they will go back into theatre and the surgeon will continue. This guarantees that there is no tumour left.
Mr Zaki said: “I have travelled the world and picked the best pieces of equipment to make sure this facility is the very best. Nothing compares to this facility worldwide.
“We have spent millions of pounds, but you can’t put a price on a child’s life and we are very proud to offer this treatment.”
Mr Zaki said the new treatment would eventually be offered to adults too.
In typical Sheffield Children’s style, there are fun additions designed especially for young patients everywhere in the new suite to help the experience be less intimidating for children and young people.
The Children’s Hospital Charity’s arts programme Artfelt has commissioned colourful art to feature on each wall providing distraction and comfort, while a spectacular mobile hangs in the new atrium.
The 3T MRI scanner has been funded by The Children’s Hospital Charity which raised £2.3m over the last 12 months.
Children’s Champions, a group of individuals who have pledged to donate large sums of money to the project over a set period of time, have been instrumental in hitting the target. Other generous donations to the charity’s scanner appeal have come from supporters in the community, from nurseries and schools to community groups, trusts and legacy donations.
David Vernon-Edwards, director of The Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “We are privileged to be able to give this incredible gift to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, which is already working to change the lives of young people with neurological conditions from across the UK.
“This life-saving scanner is a testament to the generosity of our supporters and will ensure our patients have access to the best possible equipment to help them get better more quickly.”
Ebony Taylor, aged 16, of Bentley, Doncaster, has been treated for epilepsy since 2012 and needs MRI scans to monitor the activity in her brain.
She became the first patient to use the new 3T MRI scanner.
“The old MRI scanner made such a horrible noise – I can’t describe it,” said Ebony.
“I was nervous coming to use this scanner but it was so good.
“You can hear the TV for a start. It wasn’t as claustrophobic and it was just more relaxing with all the lighting.
“I am proud that I was able to be the first person using it.
“It is going to be so important for me and others like me to have better quality scans.”
Ebony first had an MRI scan in 2012, where doctors were unable to pick up anomalies in her brain that could be causing her epilepsy.
The new scanner, with clearer images and more precise results, will be able to offer clinicians more information on her condition, which will mean better treatment management in the future so Ebony may be seizure-free.
Mum Teresa said: “The difference between the old scanner and this one is massive.
It is going to be so much better, especially for younger children who will feel more relaxed. Ebony handled it very well, but it can be very scary. This new scanner just makes the whole process 100 times easier.”
Jack McGuigan, aged eight, of Sheffield, has been coming to Sheffield Children’s Hospital since he was 10 months old.
Born with a condition called Langerhans’ cell histiocytosis, Jack has been treated by many departments in the hospital.
The cancer-like condition causes growths of bone in Jack’s body, and he’s been receiving chemotherapy to treat it.
To check on where growths are appearing, Jack has to have MRI scans.
In the past, Jack has had to have a general anaesthetic during his scans, otherwise the process may be too frightening, especially as doctors need him to be perfectly still throughout the scanning to get a reliable image. This also meant his mum, Terri-Ann, wouldn’t be able to be with him during the scan.
In the new MRI suite, Jack chooses a DVD to watch, while the walls are transformed into a relaxing beach scene. While the film plays, his mum sits in with him, and marvels at the surroundings.
Terri-Ann said: “It’s a lot less intimidating, even for me. It’s obviously a newer piece of equipment. There was room to stay in there with him and he could be awake the whole time. The whole scan even feels like it went by quicker. I can’t believe the difference.”
Jack said: “It didn’t feel scary at all. It reminded me of a posh speaker.”