Saturday 21 April 2018

How a mother's instinct saved the lives of her two little boys

Jack (left) and Cian Teeling with their mother Grainne and grandmother Deirdre
Jack (left) and Cian Teeling with their mother Grainne and grandmother Deirdre
The boys sharing a hospital bed after undergoing cancer treatment

Elaine Keogh

GRAINNE Teeling's instincts saved the lives of her two children when she realised her son Jack's eyesight wasn't correct and, after he was referred to a consultant, she insisted that her younger son Cian (19 months) also be tested.

Both Jack (4) and Cian were diagnosed with cancer behind their eyes last year. But both have now finished their chemotherapy and are in perfect health.

"There is no pain involved in the cancer they had," Ms Teeling (36), from Balbriggan in Dublin, said yesterday.

In September last year, the Teeling family had returned from a sun holiday and Cian had got conjunctivitis. He was only six months old.

"I thought if one gets it (conjunctivitis) the other is going to get it so I asked the doctor for drops for the two of them," Ms Teeling said.

When she put the drops into Jack's right eye, she noticed the way the light reflected on it made the centre of his eye look white. It bothered her so much that she brought him to her local GP.

Her doctor immediately said she needed to go to Temple Street Hospital. There she was told Jack had multiple tumours behind his eye and it could not be saved.

They were told it had to come out as soon as possible. He also had tumours behind his left eye but they hoped to be able to save that eye.


She immediately told the consultant, Professor Michael O'Keeffe, that she had another baby.

"He told me it is very rare for both to have it but I had a very strong motherly instinct," she said.

"He said we can check him in due time and I said, 'No, I am bringing him in tomorrow'. I made an appointment there and then for the following day. I just knew."

The consultant listened to her and, as a result, the cancer -- retinoblastoma -- was caught in time with Cian. The cancer is potentially fatal.

Jack lost one of his eyes and has had a prosthetic eye, which he calls his 'special eye', fitted and he lives a normal life.

"Jack had one multiple tumour in the right eye and two smaller ones in the left eye in the corner," Ms Teeling said.

"Cian had four in his right eye and three in the left eye.

"The professor said we were very lucky and that Cian would have been blind in both eyes at the same rate. They couldn't tell us how long the boys would have survived if they had not been caught."

The boys had their chemotherapy and laser treatment together. They now have check-ups every six weeks but the future is bright.

"The doctors have told me that they listen to the parents of the patient," Ms Teeling said.

"For Cian I pushed to have him seen as fast as possible because I knew in my heart there was something wrong."

Irish Independent

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