Bump on head at soft play may have saved three-year-old boy's life

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The mother of a 'miracle' triplet undergoing treatment for an aggressive brain cancer told how her son bumping his head in a soft play area may have saved his life.


Karen and Andy Stirrat, from Clydebank, had always longed to have children, and raised money for IVF treatment at their wedding. It seemed their dreams had come true when Karen fell pregnant, but when the triplets were born on January 27, 2016, they were so premature that their lives hung in the balance.

Caleb, who was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer, with sisters Poppy and Alyssia. Picture: SWNS

Caleb, who was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer, with sisters Poppy and Alyssia. Picture: SWNS

Caleb, born at just 27 weeks along with sisters Poppy and Alyssia, was the first to be released from hospital, and by April 22, all children were home, and the couple hoped to get a semblance of normality.

However, three years later, Caleb fell ill with what appeared to be a winter bug, and started being sick. His parents thought it was a virus and took him to the GP the next day, but nothing was flagged up. That evening he complained of having a headache.

When neither Alyssia or Poppy were sick, Karen began to question whether there was something more serious than a bug, and within a week, medics diagnosed him with a rare cancer and as scans showed a tumour and internal bleeding.

Karen said: "On Wednesday we went to soft play, and he took ill on Wednesday night. They think he banged his head and it made the tumour bleed, and they think that's what triggered the effects - that's how he was treated so quickly."

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Life-saving surgery was carried out the same day at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

"If I hadn't persisted, the surgeon said Caleb wouldn't have been here the next day."

This surgery alone wasn't enough and the family was told they had to take Calum to America for proton treatment along with mild chemo. A Justgiving page with a target of £20,000 was launched, and generous donors soon raised £13,000 to help the family to travel to Florida.

The three-year-old is still receiving chemo, however Karen hopes that by December, the medical treatment he needs will be finished.

She said: "It was supposed to finish in August but his blood counts are really low, so I'm hoping it might be November when it's finished, and back to normality by Christmas."

Karen added: "I keep thinking we're nearly finished, but then we don't know what's going to happen. If it wasn't for the general public helping beforehand, I wouldn't want to think - we are so fortunate that we have had so much help."

The money they raised has now run out, and although the family receive £100 a week disability living allowance, Karen gave up her job when becoming a mother and Andy has had to cut his working hours to help out with childcare and hospital visits, so the family is hoping another £7,000 can be raised to help them through the coming months.

Karen explained: "We've been living off the £13,000 but now that's run out, and I feel uneasy about buying the girls new shoes, with people thinking 'is that what it was meant to be spent on?', but the children have got to be fed and clothed. You want the help, but you don't want to ask for help."

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Karen said the impact of cancer treatment has forced her children to grow up faster than she had hoped, as Caleb's sisters role play doctors and nurses, and have even started to insist that they want medicine at hospital too.

Chemotherapy drugs make Caleb so hyper he sometimes is up until 1.30am, and the family have lost any sense of routine.

Once they have got some stability back, Karen and Andy hope to start a charity to help fund research into cancer treatments for children, and anything left over from the Justgiving page will go towards that.

To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/caleb-stirrat?utm_term=K545YqnrZ