New treatment saves toddler with aggressive leukaemia after chemotherapy failed to work

5 days ago 38

SINGAPORE – Two-year-old Mathias kept coming down with high fever. Then his family noticed bruises on his inner thighs.

“We thought he was being punished in childcare,” said his father, Mr Michael Teo, 39.

Following a second visit to a general practitioner, the family was advised to take the toddler to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).

By then, tiny blood spots resembling pinpricks started appearing on his legs, said the boy’s mother, Ms Adriana Koh, 34.

Mathias was taken to KKH on a Sunday in April 2022 as his parents were afraid he might have caught dengue fever.

A blood test revealed the toddler had an alarmingly elevated white blood cell count, and he was promptly admitted to the Children’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Two days later, the doctors told his parents that Mathias has leukaemia – a cancer that starts in the cells of the bone marrow where blood cells are made – and recommended chemotherapy.

“It was a shock. We have no family history (of leukaemia), and he was born healthy and had been healthy since,” said Mr Teo, a civil servant.

Leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer in the world. In Singapore, about 150 children are diagnosed with cancer every year. About two-thirds are leukaemia cases, according to KKH.

In the ICU, Mathias would scream in fear each time the doctors came to draw his blood for various tests. He also screamed for his parents when they had to leave the ward for the team to perform a bone marrow biopsy.

Mr Teo said they wanted so much to elevate the pain their son was feeling but felt completely helpless.

“We broke down outside the ICU. We hugged each other,” he added.

The toddler did not respond to the first round of chemo...

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