'I feel like Zac's country has let him down': Cancer boy, 7, forced to travel to Germany for lifesaving operation
Parents have spent 10,000 taking Zac abroad for immediate treatment for neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that only affects children
Schoolboy will undergo an operation tomorrow in an attempt to remove
three diseased lymph nodes
Emergency: Zac's parent's are taking him to Germany for immediate treatment
A mother yesterday flew her son to Germany for a lifesaving operation after two NHS hospitals delayed his treatment for lack of beds.
Fearing another 11th-hour cancellation, Sam Knighton has spent 10,000 taking Zac abroad for immediate treatment for neuroblastoma, a form of cancer.
The seven-year-old will be operated on tomorrow at the University Hospital Greifswald in an attempt to remove three diseased lymph nodes.
Last night, Miss Knighton, 43, told the Daily Mail: ‘I feel like Zac’s country has let him down.
'I have had to fight, argue and question everything along the way to help my son.
‘I just hope we’re in time – it could already be too late.
'I dread to think what would have happened if we’d stayed in England.’
Zac began showing symptoms of the disease in October 2008.
He saw two GPs, both of whom missed the neuroblastoma, passing the swelling off as a stomach upset. Finally, a third GP referred him for tests.
Zac was diagnosed with grade four neuroblastoma, a cancer of the developing nervous tissue. There was a 5in-long tumour in his stomach.
Miss Knighton said: ‘The specialist came
in to examine Zac. He lifted up his T-shirt and said: 'How in God’s
name did two doctors miss that''
Zac was referred to Leicester Royal
Infirmary where he began chemotherapy in March 2009 and then a procedure
to remove the tumour.
The hospital told Miss Knighton and
her partner Bob Smith, 42, a forklift truck driver, there could still be
‘residual disease’ around the tumour site.
Tragic: Cousins Chelsea Knighton when she was aged three pictured left and Zac pictured right, when he was aged five, were both diagnosed with neuroblastoma
No other option: Zac, pictured centre with his parents, Bob Smith left, and Sam Knighton, right who are taking him abroad for a lifesaving operation
More chemotherapy followed but a delay for a separate illness meant Zac missed the deadline for a vital course of antibody therapy.
The NHS paid for this in Germany where doctors removed a tumour near Zac’s heart that surgeons at Leicester had deemed too dangerous to treat. Incredibly, the UK medics had not told Zac’s family about it.
Miss Knighton added: ‘I feel the NHS has let my son down at every stage. It is incredible that I have to go to Germany.
‘It is disgusting that this country
doesn’t offer everything it can to save these children. It’s like we
live in a third world country.’
Zac was given the all-clear in February 2011, a follow-up scan in May
in Germany showed three diseased lymph nodes in his abdomen.
Drug treatment failed and the family was
told last month that Zac needed another operation. Although a surgeon
was available at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre on December 22, no
paediatric beds were free until January 19.
Miss Knighton’s complaints saw her offered an operation at Leicester on January 4.
But this was cancelled barely half an hour before Zac left for hospital. Again, a bed shortage was blamed.
‘I phoned the consultant in Germany and he could do it right away,’
Miss Knighton said. ‘I just got straight on the phone to book flights. It was my son’s life and I didn’t care how much it cost.
‘Every day counts with this disease and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if the NHS delay cost him his life.’
Johannes Visser, a consultant paediatric oncologist at Leicester who has been caring for Zac since 2009, said:
our unit was extraordinarily busy with critically ill children needing
help to breathe, so his operation was rescheduled.’
spokesman for Nottingham University Hospitals said: ‘The first date we
offered for Zac’s operation was January 19, which the family have chosen
not to accept, and therefore we haven’t cancelled any surgery.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: 'We understand the Trust is looking into this case. We would expect the NHS at local level to make sure they have the right number of paediatric intensive care beds to meet the demands of their local population.
'In keeping with the rest of the NHS in England, the local health service in the East Midlands is receiving annual real terms increases in funding in each year of this Parliament.'