“The pressure on his brain almost killed him”

On the verge of dying nearly five years ago, the difference in Jackson Harris’ life between then and now is like night and day according to mom, Sara.  It was the pressure on Jackson’s brain that triggered the excruciating headaches and vomiting that ultimately resulted in a life-changing trip to McMaster Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department in December 2011.

Jackson Harris

Jackson Harris

It was Miracle Weekend 2012 when we first brought you the dramatic story of the devastatingly large cancerous brain tumour that was wrapped around the top of Jackson’s spinal column.  The three-year-olds’ tumour was so large that within hours of being admitted to the hospital, Jackson was undergoing his first surgery simply to relieve the pressure on his brain.  After nearly 11 hours of surgery, followed by weeks and months of chemotherapy and radiation, the tumour was at a size where neurosurgeons felt that they could go in and remove the tumour. The tumour was so aggressive that until this point Sara and dad, Robb, were just hoping that their son would survive.

It was the second surgery that removed the tumour from their son’s brain. What no one could know at the time was the long-term outcome of this complex and delicate surgery, and whether the tumour would return.  In the early days, Jackson suffered some paralysis on the left side of his body, including the loss of vision in the left eye and loss of hearing in the left ear. He also struggled with balance and speech.  None of this mattered to Sara and Robb who were just grateful that their son was alive and the tumour was gone.

Today, Jackson is a talkative and very active eight year old. While the vision in his left eye has not fully returned, and there is some lingering paralysis, Jackson is a happy and outgoing boy. The cautious, confused and lethargic Jackson is gone. Now in Grade 3, Jackson continues to receive ongoing care at McMaster Children’s Hospital. This is complemented by the dedicated home care that Robb, Sara, and Jackson’s sister Gracie provide.  Jackson has some comprehension of what he has been through, and he continues to laugh and smile.  “McMaster Children’s Hospital is more than a hospital, when we go for follow-up visits; it is like going to visit family. Jackson gets excited and cheers as the bus comes in site of the hospital”, says Robb.  “We gauge life and life’s challenges on Jack’s terms.”

“We are so lucky to have this outcome” says Sara, “Jackson surprised everyone and has exceeded expectations and will continue to do so.”

Every six months Jackson undergoes an MRI to check that the tumour isn’t coming back. This  summer will be five years – at which point Jackson will move from being classified as “stable” to being “cancer-free”.  It is a day that Sara and Robb can’t wait to celebrate.

In appreciation for all that McMaster Children’s Hospital has done for their family, Sara, Robb, Jackson and Gracie are team “Jack Attack” in the 5th Birthday celebration of Walk & Wheel for Miracles.  Together they will walk and ride in support of the hospital that saved their son and brother. To support their team, or participate in this year’s event, please go to www.mackids.ca/walkandwheel