Child in a Million - Wednesday March 21

child in a million(5/6) 20.00–21.00

This series of observational documentaries explores a variety of complex medical conditions and treatments at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. Cameras follow 13 children and their families as doctors diagnose and treat their conditions using cutting-edge techniques. In this programme, two young brothers undergo cornea transplants in a bid to gain some sight, and fiveyear-old Luka fights liver cancer.

Brothers Sandip, four, and Jaydip, 18 months, were both born virtually blind with the same rare eye deformity that means their corneas are severely clouded. Ken Nischal is one of only a handful of surgeons willing to perform a cornea transplant on such young patients, and Jaydip has already had one successful cornea graft, when he was just six months old. Mr Nischal now wants to tackle the other eye, but a shortage of donor tissue means that Jaydip has been on the waiting list for almost a year. His older brother has not undergone any surgery but is now also awaiting a graft.

After many months of waiting patiently, the family finally get a phone call saying that two suitable donated corneas have become available. There is no time to waste: the two operations will take place at Great Ormond Street the next day, so parents Ranjit and Dilip must make the necessary preparations. Having been warned that the operations are not straightforward, with the risk of one or both boys losing an eye, they are understandably anxious. For his part, surgeon Mr Nischal is humbled by the couple’s efforts to improve their sons’ quality of life. “When you think about the dedication, the hardship and the complete single-mindedness of the mother and father to look after these two children, you begin to realise what parenthood’s about,” he says.

Another couple pinning their hopes on Great Ormond Street are Sanja and Branko, who have travelled all the way from Serbia for their five-yearold son Luka, who has a malignant tumour in his liver. This type of cancer in children is thankfully rare, and Luka’s tumour was only spotted when he had an ultrasound examination after a minor car accident.

The first stage of treatment for liver cancer involves several courses of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour before removing it with surgery. The chemo usually comprises a combination of two drugs, with possible side effects including damage to the heart, kidneys and hearing. But in Luka’s case, consultant Penelope Brock proposes using just one drug –Cisplatin –in order to minimise these side effects.

The chemo will be followed up with a long and complex operation. “I hope it’s the end of our nightmare,” says mum Sanja. But she will only find out for sure after an anxious wait for the results of Luka’s pathology tests…

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