Schoolgirl to sit exams after having brain tumour the size of an orange removed

Beth McKenzie is preparing for her Higher exams after having surgery in June to remove the tumour.

03 April 2022

A Scots schoolgirl is preparing to sit vital exams, less than a year after having a tumour the size of an orange removed from her brain.

Beth McKenzie, 16, from Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, underwent an eight-hour operation at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow last June.

The tumour was found after the schoolgirl’s mother, Clare, took her to the GP after Beth – who is now preparing to sit her Higher exams – started suffering from vomiting, headaches and eye pain.

When the tests revealed she had a tumour, the youngster was sent to the emergency department at the Royal Hospital for Children, with Beth going on to be treated by neurosurgeon Roddy O’Kane.

Blantyre schoolgirl Beth McKenzie underwent surgery at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glagsow (Andrew MIlligan/PA)

Speaking about him, Beth said: “Roddy and the team saved my life. I love Roddy, he gives a sense of hope and joy that you just cling on to.”

Prior to the operation she wrote the doctor a note – which the surgeon still carries in his wallet – saying: “Thank you for doing everything you can, and if I didn’t make it in the end, thank you for trying. It’s not your fault. These things just happen.”

With the tumour successfully removed in the operation, tests later showed it was a meningioma and was non-malignant.

Beth and her family, including father Peter and her little sister Rosie, were given the news as they headed for a family break.

The schoolgirl recalled: “I felt how you might feel if you were drowning and someone pulled you up, that first breath you gasp in.

“It was relief. I was so happy.”

Her mother said: “We were en-route to a holiday lodge for a few days when the call came in. When we got to our lodge the first thing we did was shout and ball to the family that it was benign. We had such a celebration!”

She recalled how her own mother had died from cancer, saying she had been “so worried” when Beth received a diagnosis.

She said: “My mum had a brain tumour when I was 22. It was a secondary cancer and she had it removed. But doctors couldn’t find the primary and she died. It all came flooding back.

“I was so worried when they said Beth had a tumour. It was tough to hear but you go on to autopilot. I had to be strong for Beth.”

Mr O’Kane recalled that Beth’s tumour was “the size of an orange” and surrounded by “a lot of important blood vessels.”

The neurosurgeon added: “You don’t want to sacrifice those, because that would cause the child a stroke and paralysis for life down the left side of the body.”

He also revealed how he has traditions that he follows before carrying out surgery.

Mr O’Kane said: “Anaesthetic time can take an hour so I get my breakfast before I start the operation. I am quite traditional and superstitious. I always have a roll, square sausage, and a potato scone.”

He continued: “I wear the same lucky socks and the same lucky pants – there’s holes in them but I’m not throwing them out, they’ve done some cracking operations. And I always park my car in the same space when I operate.”

And speaking about Beth’s successful surgery, he added: “There is a whole team of people who worked with me to get Beth through that journey, anaesthetists, theatre staff, nurses, physios, MRI, radiology, pathology, porters, canteen staff – the list is endless. I always get the thanks but I can’t do it without them.”

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