Pediatric Support Group Helps to Deal With Tumor Diagnosis, Treatment

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Loma Linda neurosurgery team is assisting families affected so they can cope better.

Six-year-old Gavin Bullington went to his mother, Veronica, complaining about stomach pain, headaches, and severe vomiting. Veronica quickly took her son to the emergency department, where he was prescribed a medication to help with the vomiting and sent home. After five more days of nearly continuous vomiting, Veronica knew something was very wrong with Gavin.

After returning to the hospital, Gavin went through various tests, including a computed tomography (CT) scan at the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, a Seventh-day Adventist health institution in Loma Linda, California, United States. The scan revealed a tumor.

It would be the beginning of a long and trying journey for the Bullington family, but they wouldn’t be alone.

“From that point on, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital pediatric neurosurgery team was by our side,” Veronica says. “We couldn’t have gotten through this anywhere else.”

The team wouldn’t know if the tumor — located in the posterior fossa or back of his brain — was cancerous or benign until surgery. Pediatric neurosurgeon Tanya Minasian conducted the first surgery on Gavin.

Minasian and her team were able to successfully remove the entire tumor from Gavin’s brain. Doctors discovered that it was a benign tumor, meaning he wouldn’t need any chemotherapy or radiation.

“Unfortunately, post-operation, Gavin developed posterior fossa syndrome,” Minasian says. “While this syndrome generally resolves with time, it is extremely difficult and even heartbreaking for the patient and the family to live through.”

Posterior fossa syndrome, also known as cerebellar mutism, is seen in up to 30 percent of children with posterior fossa tumors. The individual loses the ability to speak, in addition to having emotional lability, and without aggressive rehabilitation, symptoms could persist.

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