In 2013, New Brunswickers Amanda and Jeremy proudly gave birth to their son, Michael. However, it was at five months that Amanda and Jeremy first began to notice their son’s eye turning inwards. They shared their concerns with their family doctor during Michael’s six month immunization appointment, which led them to a paediatrician who referred them to ophthalmologist Dr. Ken Roberts.
The initial appointment was a standard one, with Michael diagnosed as having strabismus (cross-eyed) and being far-sighted. He was prescribed glasses and the family went on their way, with plans to continue coming back for routine check-ups.
As time went on Michael began having issues with his balance and coordination, and his parents grew concerned. The paediatrician was unable to detect a problem, finding that Michael was only just learning to walk and was successfully meeting all other milestones for his age.
However, by December 2015 that it became evident that there was something more serious going on. Michael’s condition was worsening to the point where even taking a sharp turn in the car would upset him to the point of screaming. Amanda and Jeremy took their son back to Dr. Roberts to see if it were possible to get a new eyeglass prescription. It was at this point that Dr Roberts noticed that both optical nerves were swollen and that a more serious issue was causing Michael’s problems. As a medical doctor, Dr. Roberts was able to order an urgent MRI, which uncovered that Michael had a large brain tumour growing.
The family would come to learn that the tumour was in Michael’s cerebellum and was pushing up against his eyes and optic nerves. The eyes were acting as little alarms to the greater issue taking place. Without Dr. Robert’s ophthalmological expertise, the tumour would have continued to limit brain drainage and eventually lead to hydrocephalus (over-accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid also known as “water on the brain”).
Following a referral to a neurosurgeon at IWK Health Centre, the family travelled to Halifax the next week to have the pilocytic astrocytoma tumour removed. The neurosurgeon performed a surgery that lasted over seven hours and led to the successful, complete removal of a large tumour. While the tumour was slightly larger than an egg, fortunately a biopsy found it to be benign with a low rate of growing back.
Since his surgery, Michael has had an incredible recovery. He has no remnant issues from the tumour and has made a full recovery. Dr. Roberts continues to keep a careful eye out for any signs of the tumour returning during regular check-ups. But between those check-ups, you can now find Michael learning to ride his bike or playing on the monkey bars just like any other kid.