The family of a courageous teenager who suffered a terrifying brain haemorrhage and were warned an operation on his skull could kill him have spoken for the first time of their medical “miracle” - after he walked out of hospital just days later.
Joel Newman, 16, suffered a bleed in his brain but it took days of tests for doctors and surgeons to find the exact cause of the haemorrhage.
The youngster, from St Annes, was taken to Royal Preston Hospital after falling ill while camping with schoolmates to complete his Duke Of Edinburgh award.
The teen had been suffering headaches which were thought to be a migraine, but when he started vomiting and developed sensitivity to light his parents feared something more sinister was happening to their eldest son.
Doctors today described his condition as “very rare” and told how they had to seek advice from neurosurgeons around the country, eventually using £2m of equipment and an instrument just thicker than a single body hair to glue the vessel.
Speaking for the first time since the ordeal, his mother, Dr Sindy Newman, said: “By the time we got Joel to hospital his symptoms were so severe he was really fearing for his life.
“They did an angiogram which was terrifying for him, he had some sight loss for a short time, it was very scary.”
Three days later and after a series of investigations, it was found that Joel had suffered a bleed in his brain at the top of his spinal cord, within the respiratory centre of the organ.
But the family says it was granted a “miracle”, as Dr Siddharta Wuppalapati, a consultant interventional neuro radiologist, used a pioneering surgical method, making an incision through Joel’s skull in order to glue the burst vessel, saving his life.
Mrs Newman added: “They told him before the operation that he might not make it through, or that he may make it but could be left quadriplegic.
“Joel was extremely brave and he walked out of hospital three days later. It was truly miraculous.
“Sometimes I think about how we nearly lost him, but we didn’t, and we live in an age where this kind of thing is possible.”
The parents, who are both doctors, Mrs Newman a barriatrics physician and Mr Brian Newman a consultant surgeon, said their son found solace in his parent’s medical expertise.
But knowing full well what their son would be facing made things more difficult for them, the mother-of-three admitted.
She said: “I felt numb. At some stages I’m not sure it was better that we’re doctors. But I think it helped him.”
It was on October 15 last year when the teenager was first admitted. He underwent the life-saving operation on October 21.
Within days Joel was able to return home, on North Promenade in St Annes, and eventually return to school, at AKS in Lytham.
His family are today speaking out after he completed his remarkable recovery - and is now preparing for his GCSE exams.
His mother added: “We will never forget what the neurology unit did. How will I ever thank them?”
Dr Siddharta Wuppalapati said: “The risks involved and the targets are very fine so we took opinions from colleagues across the country.
“It changes the game to have a young patient.”
The bleed occurred in the spinal cord space of Joel’s brain, meaning the teenager was at risk of being paralysed from the neck down or having his respiratory system affected.
Surgeons decided that it was too risky for Joel to wait to be treated on a paediatric unit so treated him on the adult unit instead.
Using state-of-the-art equipment worth more than £2m Dr Wuppalapati and his team carried out a two-hour operation.
The surgeon added: “There was a risk that if it bled again it could damage the spinal cord or it could stop your breathing.
“If we’d not done it in time there was significant risk of paralysis.
“We delivered something like super glue through a catheter which is just a bit thicker than your body hair, blocking off the abnormal vessel.
Now Joel’s younger brother Carlos, a Year Six pupil at AKS Junior School, is doing his bit to thank the team at Royal Preston Hospital by fund-raising for them.
The 11-year-old drummer will be performing at the charity ball for Aiming Higher, a Blackpool based charity for disabled children and their families, tonight at the Winter Gardens.
The youngster had initially set out to raise cash for the charity, inspired by the tenacity of two of his cousins, one who is autistic and one who has cerebral palsy, and wanting to ensure opportunities for other children with similar conditions.
He has already raised £600 in donations
Carlos will be playing three songs at the Spring Ball for Aiming Higher on March 7, in the Illuminasia venue of the Winter Gardens complex in Blackpool.
His efforts are to raise money for both the charity and neurology unit, having already seen donations come in for more than £600.
– To sponsor Carlos, visit www.justgiving.com/carlos-Newman