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Dad takes on 50k trek after baby daughter Octavia was saved by pioneering brain surgery technique

By William Janes

A father whose baby daughter's life was saved by a pioneering brain surgery technique is about to walk 50km through the night to raise money to the innovative equipment used in her operation.

In January 2018, at just 15-months-old Octavia Begbey, from Kings Hill, was rushed to Kings College Hospital after doctors in Tunbridge Wells diagnosed her with a brain tumour right in the middle of her head.

She had been feeling unwell for several days, suffering from a loss of appetite and sleeplessness, normal symptoms of teething, but parents Richard and Charlotte really started to worry when she developed a stiff neck.

Scroll down to hear from fundraising dad

Doctors discovered a 4cm tumour in 15-month0old Octavia's brain
Doctors discovered a 4cm tumour in 15-month0old Octavia's brain

After several days of observation doctors discovered a four centimetre tumour which was pushing liquid up against her skull - crushing her brain.

After rushing through the night in an ambulance to the city hospital the family was told their beloved daughter could be operated on the following morning, but faced a 12 hour wait in insufferable pain.

Unable to get Octavia to sleep, Richard and Charlotte paced the corridor all night with her, trying to settle her.

"My wife said it was the scariest blue-light ride in the ambulance that she’s ever had," said Richard. "But second to that was knowing your daughter is dying in your arms.

"The only thing we could do was hold her, walk her up and down the corridor of the ward for those 12 hours up until her surgery. Sing to her, hold her and try to help her find some peace and rest."

"We met the neurosurgeon that night and he looked at the scans, this was Monday night around 9pm or 10pm and he said she would be dead by Friday.

"The anaesthetist said that we were unable to give her food, drink, or more medicines. Now this is a girl having the worst headache of her life and the pain in her head is literally killing her.

"The only thing we could do was hold her, walk her up and down the corridor of the ward for those 12 hours up until her surgery. Sing to her, hold her and try to help her find some peace and rest."

The couple feared, like other children they heard about, Octavia may come out of the operation unable to speak, see, or worse - not come out at all.

But thanks to a new technique using a piece of equipment invented at Kings College Hospital, an adapted an endoscopic ultrasonic aspirator - a device that uses ultrasonic vibration to break apart a brain tumour and remove it, she survived.

Usually, removing a tumour requires make a large cut through healthy parts of the brain and inevitably causes brain damage.

But with consultant neurosurgeon Bassel Zebian's invention the incision is much smaller, limiting the damage and increasing the rate of survival.

After three more operations over the next year the remainder of the tumour was removed and she is now a healthy, happy little girl.

Richard said: "Because it’s a pioneering procedure we were chatting with the doctor who said 'we only have one of these' and it was like ‘what do you mean you only have one? What if it breaks? What if two children need it?’ He said ’they can't have it, we only have one,' so we said 'that’s not good enough, you need two.'

"We’re getting them another one, if we raise the money today it - great. If we put our hand in our own pocket - fine, but they’re getting a second one."

To raise the money for another device, Richard is taking on a gruelling 50km walk from the family home in Kings Hill to his office in the City of London.

Parents Richard and Charlotte with their son Elliot and daughter Octavia
Parents Richard and Charlotte with their son Elliot and daughter Octavia

The trek is expected to take 12 hours and will replicate the terrifying night he and Charlotte spent with Octavia pacing the hospital halls in desperation and hope.

"I’m going to smash it," said the devoted father. "If I go into it thinking I’m going to lose it's not going to happen. I’m going to be absolutely exhausted but last year we did this same 12 hours on our feet walking Octavia up and down the corridor and at that point we were emotionally and physically drained from knowing our daughter was dying from a brain tumour.

"This year I’ve got a support group, I've got the charities, the hospital, friends, and family supporting me so I’m going to do it. I’m going to crack on, I’m going to finish work, go home, have a nice dinner with my wife, put my trainers on and at midnight tonight I’m going to step out the door and I’m going to walk and I’m not going to stop until I get here."

For parts of the hike Richard will be joined by his dad and uncle, Charlotte, his brother, and a family friend.

Currently, a fundraiser has reached more than £8,000 or the the £15,000 needed to by the life-saving equipment.

To lend a helping hand yourself click here.

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