Life-saving brain tumour surgery a success for Cork teenager Aaron McMahon

The surgeon who removed a life-threatening brain tumour from Irish teen Aaron McMahon says he can look forward to “life as usual” and may leave hospital by the weekend.

Paul Gardner told the Irish Examiner last night that Aaron, from Cork, who turns 18 today, is already up, moving and talking after coming through Wednesday’s six-hour surgery at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

He confirmed that the entire tumour was removed and that there were no complications during the procedure.

“Fluid leakage and healing problems are the most common complication after this surgery through the nose, especially following high-dose radiation,” said Dr Gardner.

“But he is doing well, and how no new neurological problems. We also had to move his pituitary gland to get to part of the tumour and it is acting up temporarily, which we are treating with medication, but we expect no permanent effects.

“We will always have to watch for recurrence but with a complete removal and radiation, his prognosis is good.”

Aaron’s parents, Paul and Gail, said it felt like they had won the Lotto.

Paul said that when Dr Gardner briefed them after the operation, he had a smile from ear to ear and said: “Guys, we got it, we got it all.”

“I’m a grown man. I’m 50 on July 27 and I cried. I couldn’t believe it,” he told Neil Prendeville on RedFM yesterday

His wife, Gail, said she knew from the moment she met Dr Gardner that he could save her son.

“I’m kind of a nervous wreck over him at the moment but you have no idea how this feels,” she said.

“It feels like winning the Lotto. When you’ve been given a terminal diagnosis and the next minute you’ve got someone who can fix it.

“I had this sense of warmth with the man from the way he talked to Aaron. Instantly, the two of them made a connection. I had that feeling that he could fix Aaron.”

Aaron was diagnosed in February 2017 with chordoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the bones of the skull and spine, and was told earlier this year that it was terminal.

A massive fundraising campaign ensured he could travel for the life-saving surgery at UPMC, which is one of the world’s top centres for this kind of specialised chordoma surgery.

Dr Gardner said a team of five surgeons was involved, including ear, nose and throat specialist Carl Snyderman, and their assistants.

Paul said the team at UPMC have been incredible.

“Dr Gardner is probably one of the calmest doctors I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. “We’ve been through every sort of emotion leading up to this, but yesterday we were very, very calm, and optimistic and reassured by the team.

“Being reassured by one of the top neurosurgeons on the east coast of America was very reassuring for Aaron and that gave us some relief.”

Aaron has also been told that the operation was a success.

“He gave his mum a grin when she said they got it all. He’s in so much pain but he knows,” Paul said.

While Aaron could be released from hospital this weekend, the UPMC team will see him again next week for an MRI, and will follow up with him over the next three weeks to ensure full healing.


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