Fresh hopes for toddler given just days to live

A SERIOUSLY ill toddler suffering from an extremely aggressive form of cancer was given just days to live last month but is set to undergo further treatment over the coming weeks in an attempt to help her survive.

In June, two-and-a-half -year-old Holly O’Keeffe — who has battled against a series of severe brain, eye and kidney tumours for the past 16 months — was given just days to live by specialist physicians.

The parents of the little girl from Tower, Co Cork, were so convinced by a diagnosis from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, that the latest brain tumour was inoperable that they brought her home for palliative care and were considering buying a funeral plot.

However, a second consultation with neurosurgeon Dr Darach Crimmins in Temple Street found that the latest tumour caused by her neuroblastoma — which affects 14 children in Ireland every year by attacking the nervous system — could be operated upon.

And while Holly’s case remains extremely serious, with the family under no illusions as to the toddler’s chances of survival, treatment due to begin this week could prove vital.

“Her parents were told to bring her home and that she had just days to live at the time,” Holly’s uncle Noel explained.

“Then when we were bringing her up to Temple Street in the ambulance she had a seizure from water on the brain and had to have emergency surgery.

“She spent the next few days with a tube sticking out of her head, but thankfully the surgery was a complete success. Holly is such a brave girl, but fighting neuroblastoma is like putting your finger in a dam to stop a flood. When you get rid of one tumour another pops up.

“The laws of probability are not good, but she’s going to be up in St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin this week getting a cast fitted for her head so she can undergo more radiotherapy on her brain and spine.

“She doesn’t give up,” he added.

Since her condition appeared in December 2008, Martin and Mary O’Keeffe’s second child has battled a series of tumours throughout her body.

The largest have been those in her brain, behind her eye, behind her cheekbone and on her kidney, bones and bone marrow.

Medical treatment appears to have killed or removed the tumours in her head and bone marrow.

However, a large number of smaller tumours described as “hot spots” continue to exist on her arms and legs — proof that the cancer attacking Holly is not in remission.

On medical advice the O’Keeffes initially planned to take Holly to New York for specialist care and a fundraising appeal began, but due to the high costs, including a $400,000 treatment payment, they have decided to bring her back and forth to University College Hospital London.



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