Hartlepool toddler’s double health battle

Natalie Wood pictured with Saphere-Jae.
Natalie Wood pictured with Saphere-Jae.
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A BRAVE toddler is battling two serious conditions after she suffered a double health blow within weeks.

Hartlepool youngster Saphere-Jae Espley has a kidney disorder that causes her little body to fill up with fluid and she takes a dozen daily medicines to try to control it.

Just weeks after her illness was diagnosed a brain tumour the size of a golf ball was also discovered.

Doctors say they do not know of any other child in the world who has the same two conditions.

The battling two-year-old underwent a seven-and-half-hour emergency operation to try to remove the cancerous growth.

Surgeons were not able to take all of it away and had to leave about 10 per cent for fear of causing brain damage.

Mum Natalie Wood and dad James Espley are now anxiously waiting to learn if the tumour has grown back when Saphere-Jae has a scan next month.

They are also facing a dilemma over whether to risk a new medicine that could control Saphere-Jae’s kidney disorder, called Nephrotic Syndrome, but which could cause her brain tumour to grow.

Recalling the devastating moment they were told Saphere-Jae had the brain tumour, Natalie, 27, said: “My body went numb. I didn’t even cry, I just couldn’t take it in.

“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.”

Saphere-Jae was diagnosed with her kidney disorder in October last year.

Natalie became worried when she noticed a swelling in Saphere-Jae’s eyes.

Nephrotic syndrome is when the kidneys leak large amounts of protein into the urine and can cause numerous problems including swelling in the body tissues and being susceptible to infections.

During the next three weeks at James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough, Saphere-Jae had two stones of fluid drained from her body.

Then in November she was rushed to Newcastle’s RVI hospital by ambulance after doctors at James Cook discovered the lump in her head.

Natalie and James took her in for tests after she stumbled at home and was leaning her head to one side.

She was diagnosed with a slow growing kind of tumour.

“When they said the words brain tumour that’s when it hit me,” said Natalie, who is also mum to Brandon, nine, Latoniah, six, and Lennon-Jake, aged four.

Saphere-Jae spent three weeks in hospital recovering from the surgery and was home for Christmas.

But on New Year’s Eve she was dashed back to hospital again this time after her kidney problem meant she had filled up with fluid again.

Saphere-Jae is on steroids and takes 11 pills a day to try to control the condition.

She has relapsed several times as medics try to find the right combination of medicines.

She has just finished a six month course of chemotherapy for her kidney condition, even though it is not cancerous.

Natalie added: “They have been through all the hospital records to try to find someone else who has what Saphere-Jae has but they have found nothing.

“You don’t expect it to happen to your baby. It is the kind of thing I used to read about happening to other people in magazines.”

Despite what she has been through Saphere-Jae looks just like any other boisterous two-year-old as she plays and bickering with her brothers and sister.

Natalie said: “She is just so brave. She has never moaned or cries about anything.

“I call her mammy’s little star.

“She doesn’t realise she is one in a million.”

Dad James, 24, who looks after Saphere-Jae full-time with Natalie, added: “She’s unbelievable, she has been really strong and is our little fighter.

“Everyone at the RVI are amazing, I can’t thank them enough.”

Friends touched by Saphere-Jae’s story are holding a fundraising night tomorrow at the Richardson Westgarth Sports and Social Club, in Winterbottom Avenue, Hartlepool.

Money raised will go into a fund for Saphere-Jae to meet Minnie Mouse when she is well enough.

It takes place from 11am to 4pm when there will be face painting, airbrush tattoos, bouncy castle, hair braiding, balloon modeling, tombola and raffles, children’s games and more.

Admission is 50p.

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