A COMMUNITY campaign to raise money for a local family whose six-year-old daughter had surgery for a rare brain tumour has reached more than £12,000.
Parents Alison and Anthony Shearer, from Whalsay, said they are “overwhelmed” by the support they have received, which has kept them going through their “darkest moments”.
They also wanted to express their huge appreciation for the NHS.
Their daughter Willa Mae successfully underwent surgery last week at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, and is now recovering.
The tumour came to light after Willa suffered repeated headaches, which her parents thought may have been down to her ear infection, or having Covid.
But it was a visit to Miller Opticians in Lerwick which raised the alarm after staff spotted something during an eye test.
Whilst the operation was successful, her recovery is hard to predict, and it may take months or years. The future is uncertain.
The Shearers are keen to raise awareness of the importance of listening to your child if they complain of persistent sore heads, and of having their eyes checked regularly, which was a life-saver for Willa.
The online fundraiser to help the Shearers with accommodation, expenses and bills was started by Ellie Simpson, whose partner Duncan is Alison’s nephew.
It started off last week with a target of £1,000, and at the time of writing it has reached £12,390.
Ellie said the amount raised is “utterly amazing and shows such huge support from the local community and wider family and friends”.
“We are getting married on 20th May and Willa is one of our flower girls,” she added.
“I wanted to help in any way I could and felt if people could donate then it would help Anthony and Alison with any household bills or other expenses while they are away, or they could decide to donate to charities which have been a huge support to them through this tough time.”
After Gillian Murphy from the opticians raised the alarm, Willa was sent to Aberdeen for further testing. This resulted in a diagnosis of Craniopharyngioma, a rare benign brain tumour.
She was then transferred to the Royal Hospital for Children. The Shearers said the communication between Aberdeen and Glasgow was “exceptional”, while they also praised the staff at the hospitals and the ambulance workers who transferred her.
Willa had a large cyst which had grown because of the tumour, which was causing pressure on the brain.
Neurosurgeons operated on her to try to drain the cyst, but the operation did not go to plan.
However, they had a better understanding of the tumour and cyst after the first operation and began to plan the next. The tumour and cyst were in such a difficult place they were not sure if they would be able to reach it.
The initial aim was to drain the cyst to take pressure off the brain, the family said.
But the second attempt, a “long and complicated surgery” up Willa’s nose, ended up working, and the tumour and cyst was removed.
This surpassed the family’s expectations, and the surgery was filmed so it can be used to help with research in the future and hopefully save more lives.
Willa was moved to intensive care after the operation and is still receiving round-the-clock care and monitoring in ICU.
The brave girl has bruising on her brain which is affecting the use of her left eye and the movement on the right side of her body, as well as her speech.
There is also a chance that this type of tumour can grow back, so Willa will be monitored carefully by a range of medical professionals for the rest of her life.
Alison and Anthony have been provided with free accommodation through Ronald McDonald House charity, which aims to keep families together in their time of need.
They will be giving a donation from the money raised through the JustGiving page to the charity.
In addition, they will be contributing to Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, and the pair will also be saving some money for a ‘Willa Fund’ as they are not sure what life is going to look like in the future, or what she might need in years to come.
Alison and Anthony will be looking into supporting brain tumour research too.
They would also like to thank all the Whalsay folk, especially Granny Linda for making life as normal as possible for Willa’s younger sister Nina.
The family said Willa has been an “absolute star throughout”, and her sense of humour and positive attitude has kept her parents going.
Even though she is unable to speak yet Willa did manage to put her thumbs up – when one of the nurses threatened to squirt their colleague with water.
People can donate to the fundraiser here.
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