Family Raises Money For Life Saving Treatment For Three-Year-Old

14/12/2010 12:32 | Updated 22 May 2015

three year old, Ruby OwensA devoted dad gave up his business to raise nearly £170,000 to take his cancer striken daughter to the U.S. for specialist radiotherapy after the NHS told the family there was nothing more they could do for her.

Martin Owens, 40, and his wife Rachel, 38, were devastated when three-year-old Ruby's doctor's told them last year that there was no further treatment available in the UK for her brain tumour.

The family from Stoke-on-Trent went on a fund-raising drive and raised the money to take Ruby to the United States where she underwent proton-therapy to destroy the tumour that threatened her life.

Ruby had been healthy until the age of two, when her parents noticed she was becoming wobbly on her feet and struggling to negotiate corners. Doctors and consultants didn't think there was anything wrong, and it was only after the Owens' saw a TV programme about an American boy with a brain tumour that they realised Ruby's problem could be serious.

'We took her back to hospital the next day and got an MRI scan. It showed a brain tumour,' says Martin. 'Our world collapsed.'

Ruby underwent emergency surgery at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, where 95 per cent of the tumour was removed.

'When they examined the tumour, they said she had only a 5 per cent chance of survival,' says Martin.

'I got the impression the hospital thought it was time for us to pack up, go home and wait for the inevitable. Initially, they thought the tumour had gone to her spine, but then they found it hadn't, so there was a ray of hope - enough to try giving two courses of chemotherapy. It reduced the tumour, so they gave her nine more courses. But Ruby's blood pressure collapsed and she was rushed to intensive care. Amazingly, she rallied.'

Martin and Rachel were told their daughter needed proton radiotherapy, a treatment that does not damage the tissue surrounding tumours, but the only machine the NHS had was only suitable for treating eyes, not brains.

'The head of oncology told us very candidly: 'You need to ring America,' says Mr Owens. 

NHS funding was initially proposed for Ruby's trip, but the family were then told it was being withdrawn as her chances of survival were too low.

Since her US treatment, the toddler's latest scan has revealed she is free of cancer.

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If life-saving treatment is available overseas, should the NHS fund it?

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