Meet the patients: Jack Brown
On the morning of 17 May 2014, 14 year old Jack Brown’s life was turned upside down when what he thought was a migraine turned out to be a bleed on his brain.
A resident of Jersey, Jack had gone swimming at the local leisure centre with a group of friends but got out of the pool as he felt like he had a migraine coming on and was experiencing his usual blurred vision and sickness. He telephoned his granddad to collect him but then was taken very ill and an ambulance was called.
“I remember the ambulance and Granddad turning up but then nothing for a few weeks after that.”
Jack’s mum, Sandra, was called and met them at Jersey General Hospital where the doctors treated him with anti-sickness injections and allowed him to sleep off the ‘migraine’. When Jack woke up he was not himself and Sandra persuaded the team that this was something more serious than a migraine. A CT scan that afternoon confirmed her suspicions and a bleed was found on Jack’s brain. That evening a plane was chartered from Jersey to Southampton and by 11.30pm Jack arrived at Southampton Children’s Hospital.
“It felt like a scene from Casualty”, Sandra tells us.
“Mr. Sparrow and his team were waiting for us to arrive in the ambulance and as soon as we did, Jack was rushed off to theatre.”
A number of hours later Jack came out of surgery and was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU). He stayed on PICU for two weeks until he regained consciousness and was able to breathe on his own. It was during this surgery that Mr. Sparrow and his team found that Jack had an arteriovenous malformation in his brain. Jack underwent two further operations in July and November to remove this and awaits an appointment in Sheffield later this year to deliver specialist radiation therapy to the remaining area.
After that, Jack moved on to the neurology ward where he slept a lot for the first few weeks. He was unable to eat, walk or communicate and became very agitated and upset at his condition. Jack’s determined approach to life meant that he threw himself into his rehabilitation schedule. This included physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy. He worked very hard at this and in the three months that he was on the neuro ward the teams became family to Jack and Sandra. Mr Sparrow said: “Jack was very ill indeed and his recovery is in large measure down to his hard work during inpatient rehabilitation on the wards and in Bursledon House. He is a very determined young man.”
It was with sadness but also elation that in August Jack moved onto the next stage of his recovery and moved to the paediatric medical unit and left his neuro family behind. This was when the hard work really started and Jack was able to start to walk again with the aid of a frame. In December Jack was able to move to Bursledon House to complete his rehabilitation.
At the same time, his mum moved into the newly opened Ronald McDonald House Southampton. The 53-bedded home from home meant that she could move from Meller House in shared accommodation to her own room. Sandra told us: “Being able to stay at Meller House was great, but actually being able to have my own space again after six months of sharing has meant that I can spend more quality time with Jack. Ronald McDonald House has been life changing for me and even meant that Jack’s brother and sister were able to join us for Christmas and enjoy it at a family, it was brilliant.”
Another big support throughout Jack’s time in hospital has been the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation; a Jersey based charity that support families who need to spend time in the UK whilst their children receive medical treatment. They paid for Sandra’s accommodation whilst she stayed at Meller House and also paid for Jack’s brother and sister, Jordan and Jenny, and his Dad, Jason, to fly over and spend time with Jack during his rehabilitation.
Since being in Bursledon, through the tremendous support of Nick Falle and the team at Hautlieu School, the Southampton Children’s Hospital School and the Jersey education system, Jack has been able to restart his education remotely. He hopes to return to school full time from September and will attend school on a part-time basis for the rest of the term. Alongside this, Bradley da Costa and the rest of Jack’s school friends arranged some fantastic fundraising events to purchase an iPad to help him keep in touch with his friends and maintain a social (and school) life between Southampton and Jersey. Jack told us: “My iPad is my life!”.
On Friday, 22 May Jack returned home for good, after 370 days in hospital. Jack’s dry wit, love of doing his hair and huge character has not gone unnoticed by staff or patients and he acquired the nickname Lord Jack whilst in Bursledon House, he will definitely be missed. On his return home, Jack told us that he was looking forward to playing on his Playstation and being able to smell the fresh Jersey air. Apparently Southampton air just isn’t the same!