Desperate mother forced to take son in a taxi to hospital 100 miles away – where he was found to be riddled with cancer – after local doctors insisted he was ‘fine’
- Rebbeca George, 27, took her son to hospital eight times in six months
- Doctors said he had a viral infection, or lack of iron and sent him away
- The last time he was sent away, he spent the night unwell and collapsed
- Miss George decided to take him on a £90 taxi journey to the nearest A&E
- This meant travelling over 100 miles from the Lake District to Manchester
- Within two days, Jake was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer
- Underwent five gruelling rounds of chemotherapy but is now cancer-free
- Hospital trust has apologised and said they are investigating the case
A mother was forced to spend £90 taking her sick son to a hospital in a taxi in a desperate bid to find out what was wrong with him.
Rebbeca George, 27, was convinced her son Jake was seriously ill – but doctors at her local hospital repeatedly insisted he was fine.
In despair, after eights visits over six months, she got in a taxi and travelled more than 100 miles from her home in the Lake District, the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
Within two days of arriving, five-year-old Jake was diagnosed with advanced cancer and found to be ‘riddled’ with tumours.
Rebbeca George, 27, was forced to take her desperately ill five-year-old son Jake, more than 100 miles in a £90 taxi ride to an emergency unit in Manchester, after doctors at her local hospital said he was fine
Within two days of arriving in Manchester, Jake was diagnosed with advanced cancer and was found to be ‘riddled’ with tumours
He endured five rounds of gruelling chemotherapy and will still need one more, but scans have now revealed his cancer has gone.
Miss George took Jake – who has severe autism and learning disabilities – to the scandal-hit Furness General Hospital (FGH), Cumbria, for the first time in May, when he was sent away with a suspected viral infection.
FGH is currently the subject of a public inquiry, following fears over the deaths of at least eight mothers and babies in 2008.
But even after the pair had been sent home from the hospital, Miss George was still convinced there was something wrong with Jake.
She returned again and he was diagnosed with an infection and a lack of iron in his blood, but was then discharged with antibiotics and iron supplements.
However she remained worried and returned to FGH six times over six months, only to be told her son was ‘getting better’.
Miss George said: ‘At the beginning of this year, I started noticing little things, like every now and then he’d start limping for no reason.
WHAT IS NON HODGKIN LYMPHOMA?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is an uncommon cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and glands spread throughout your body.
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system.
Clear fluid called lymph flows through the lymphatic vessels and contains infection-fighting white blood cells known as lymphocytes.
In non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the affected lymphocytes start to multiply in an abnormal way and begin to collect in certain parts of the lymphatic system, such as the lymph nodes (glands).
The affected lymphocytes lose their infection-fighting properties, making you more vulnerable to infection.
The most common symptom of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a painless swelling in a lymph node, usually in the neck, armpit or groin.
Source: NHS Choices
‘I’d taken him to the hospital for that before, but they’d never come back with anything.
‘Then around March time it seemed he was always tired, he’d scream all night long, and he wouldn’t sleep.
‘He’d be running around playing and then he’d suddenly be crying and there was nothing you could do to calm him down or make him feel better.
‘He just went from being really happy and hyper to being really quiet and miserable.
‘He was sleeping all the time and he just lay there really sad. He wouldn’t do anything.’
The last time he was sent away from hospital, Jake spent the night severely unwell and collapsed the following morning.
Miss George felt she had no option but to take him from their Lake District home to a dedicated unit at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, more than 100 miles away.
Within 48 hours of arriving in Manchester, Jake was given morphine and a blood transfusion, having been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
An MRI scan at the beginning of June revealed tumours all over his spine and in his spleen, liver and kidneys.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a rare cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and glands spread throughout the body.
It occurs when white blood cells called lymphocytes – that help the body fight infection and disease – begin growing in an uncontrolled way.
Jake underwent five gruelling round of chemotherapy, and has one more to go. Miss George is now keeping people up to date on her son’s progress via Jake’s Journey Facebook page
Jake was also diagnosed with a specific type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma known as Burkitt lymphoma, which affects specific white blood cells known as ‘B-cells’, which mature in the bone marrow.
Miss George described the shock at finding out her son had advanced cancer. She said: ‘He was riddled with tumours.
‘Even having suspected he might have cancer, the sheer amount of them I couldn’t have been prepared for.’
Jake’s treatment at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital saw him endure five gruelling runs of chemotherapy.
Sessions usually lasted four to five days, followed by him being put on a drip to flush the toxicity of the drugs out of his system.
‘Because his cancer was fast growing and very aggressive they had to treat it the same way,’ Miss George said.
‘The third lot nearly killed him. He ended up in intensive care and we nearly lost him. He picked up a nasty virus and went into septic shock.
Bone marrow biopsies have now revealed Jake’s cancer cells are gone.
Having had one session of chemotherapy since tests showed the cancer is gone, he has only one left to go.
Miss George said: ‘He’s been absolutely amazing.
‘They’ve done awful things to him – weekly lumbar punctures, bone marrow biopsies, chemo.
‘He has bloods taken every single day – and he just deals with it.
Tests show thankfully Jake is now cancer free and his mother hopes they may be able to return to their home in Cumbria soon. He is pictured here at four years old before his treatment
‘When he’s in pain he lies there quietly and deals with it, when he’s well he’s like he is today. I haven’t seen Jake as well since last year.’
After moving to Manchester to be close to Jake, Miss George is hopeful they may both be able to go back to Cumbria soon.
She is determined lessons be learned from Jake’s experience at FGH.
She also worries that his disabilities may have been responsible for treatment she describes as ‘disgusting’.
On one occasion, she says, her son’s evident agony almost brought her to tears, yet she was asked by a doctor whether his behaviour was due to his autism.
Miss George says her son has been ‘amazing’ in handling the treatment
And she believes ‘arrogance’ led Jake’s doctor to ignore her fears after she requested a second opinion on his condition.
Miss George says: ‘I know my little boy inside out, I know him better than anyone else does.
‘I understand his body language, every little look on his face, his behaviour.
‘Jake doesn’t talk, he doesn’t do sign language, he can’t communicate – but I read him. That’s how it’s always had to be. So the fact that they wouldn’t listen to me or take me seriously is disgusting.’
She added: ‘If I hadn’t brought him down here, he would have died from infection.
‘Yes, I understand childhood cancer is rare, but it’s not that rare. The symptoms were there, I suspected it, so why didn’t they?’
George Nasmyth, medical director for the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘We are very sorry that the paediatric service at Furness General Hospital did not meet the standards of care expected by Jake and his family, and we are investigating thoroughly.
‘The findings of our analysis will be shared with the family in due course, and we will listen and respond directly to their concerns.’
In the meantime, Miss George is keeping people up to date on her son’s progress via Jake’s Journey Facebook page, which has almost 1,000 followers.
She explained: ‘I want to put his story out there because I think he’s absolutely remarkable. I’m so proud of him, I really am. But at the same time I want people to know that this happens.
‘Everyone knows about the breast cancers and the prostate cancers and the things that affect adults, but what do we really know about the cancers children get? We need to raise awareness.’
Health officials at Furness General Hospital have apologised for Jake’s care and said they are ‘investigating thoroughly’