Brave Cork teen Aaron keeping spirits high before surgery

“I’ll see you when I’m done.”

Aaron McMahon chats to his mother, Gail, as he prepares for potentially life-saving brain surgery today

That was the simple message from brave Irish teenager Aaron McMahon ahead of potentially life-saving surgery in the US today to remove a brain tumour.

Aaron, 17, from Midleton, Co Cork, admitted to feeling nervous ahead of the complex, lengthy surgery but said that he is overwhelmed with the messages of support from home.

He also thanked everyone who helped fundraise or contributed to his family’s campaign which raised more than €140,000 to allow him undergo surgery in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in Pittsburgh.

I’m just thankful that everyone got me here and I’ll see them when it’s over,” he told the Irish Examiner.

Aaron was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the bones of the base of the skull and spine, in February 2017.

Despite undergoing nine weeks of intensive proton treatment in Germany last year, doctors had to deliver the devastating news earlier this year that his condition is terminal and there was nothing more doctors in Ireland could do to help him.

His father, Paul, told Neil Prendeville on RedFM yesterday that they were effectively told the only option left here was palliative care.

However, Aaron and his family refused to give up and with the help of a chordoma support group in the US, a world-leading neurosurgeon at UPMC, who has performed almost 100 similar chordoma surgeries, agreed to operate in a bid to save Aaron’s life.

The community rallied and after months of fundraisers to cover transport, medical and accommodation costs, Aaron and his parents, Gail and Paul, travelled to the US early last month to prepare for today’s surgery.

Aaron underwent a procedure yesterday to isolate delicate arteries and nerves ahead of the main surgery today, which could take between eight to 12 hours.

UPMC has developed expertise in the surgical treatment of chordoma, and has pioneered an endoscopic endonasal treatment, which involves surgeons operating on the tumour via the nostrils.

The co-director of UPMC’s center for cranial base surgery, Paul A Gardner, said they have built up vast experience in this form of surgery over the last decade.

“We have operated on close to 100 chordomas endonasally, which is possibly one of the
largest series like this in the world,” he said.

This extensive experience has allowed us to provide lower risk with greater resections of these tumours.

Aaron’s parents, and one of his brothers, Andrew, are at his bedside. Another brother, Adam, hopes to join them in the US soon.

Paul said they are all anxious and nervous but very optimistic that Aaron is undergoing the surgery.

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