Courage of young Gary

THERE was a time when 11-year-old Gary could only communicate with his parents by blinking.The courageous youngster was left unable to talk, walk or move a limb after being struck down by a rare brain tumour.

THERE was a time when 11-year-old Gary could only communicate with his parents by blinking.

The courageous youngster was left unable to talk, walk or move a limb after being struck down by a rare brain tumour.

But now the schoolboy has beaten the odds to survive a cancerous tumour which spread to his spine and is found in only a handful of children each year.

Doctors believed Gary Oates, from Elmswell, near Stowmarket, had no more than a 30 per cent chance of surviving the potentially fatal ependymoma, which strikes just 25 children annually.

Gary, a Stowmarket Middle School pupil, underwent a delicate ten-hour operation to remove most of the tumour, had chemotherapy to shrink it and radiotherapy to eliminate any last damaged cells.

He spent about five weeks in intensive care at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and had subsequent treatment at Ipswich Hospital after first being diagnosed on September 11 last year.

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Now his parents Lynda, 43, and Giles, 45, have heard the tumour is completely gone and doctors expect their son to make a full recovery.

Gary has regained his speech and is learning to walk again and has just received a laptop computer package from the Make-a-Wish charity. PC World also gave him some games and cables.

His family, including his two brothers Christopher, 14, and Jack, nine, are thrilled at his miraculous recovery.

"It could have killed him. When he was in intensive care he was unable to even stick his tongue out or move any limb, either arm or leg," said Mrs Oates, a cleaner.

"The only way we knew he was still there was when we asked him yes or no questions and he blinked back at us. He could not even squeeze a doctor's hand and they did not know how he would recover.

"It feels like a bad dream now. At the time I felt like stone, you just shut down. We would be by his intensive care bedside from 8am to 9pm when we had to leave.

"They never knew a child with so many neurological and surgical problems and they gave him 30pc or less chance of surviving. He is our big miracle and the surgeon has said he will now make a full recovery and will walk again.

"To hear that the tumour has disappeared is fantastic, we had a big party with the adults drinking wine and the children coke. But we are still in shock. It's been like a roller coaster and we had to cope an hour at a time. Throughout though, Gary has been great.''

Mr Oates, an account manager for Canon UK Ltd, which held a collection to buy the youngster some toys, said: "It restores your faith in human nature to meet people like Make-a-Wish, the hospitals, and everyone who has been there for us.''

Make-a-Wish volunteer, June Balaam, said: "Gary is an amazing lad and it is really excellent we can put the icing on the cake and give him his wish. It's just unbelievable he has done so well and it's a privilege to know him.''

Gary's parents are full of praise for everyone who has rallied round them during the difficult times.

Hospital staff at Addenbrooke's and Ipswich, family, friends, work colleagues and charities Make-a-Wish and the Sargent Cancer Care for Children which helped them with travelling expenses.

Pupils at Gary's school even sent him letters and tapes they had made to keep his spirits up.

Since the successful treatment Gary has been having speech therapy and physiotherapy and his first word since regaining the ability to talk was "hi".

He is now speaking fluently again and although in a wheelchair at the moment, hopes to learn to start walking again soon and return to school.

n The Make-a-Wish charity helps children aged three to 18-years-old with life threatening illnesses, making their dream wish come true. To find out more, call 01473 311745 or 01708 731431.

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