Family living ‘bad dream’ after son’s headaches turned out to be brain tumour

Zack Smith, 12, started to experience severe headaches and nausea in August when his family thought he caught a bug – but after having a seizure in the hospital it was found he had a tumour and cancerous cells in his spine

A devastated family say they are living a “bad dream” after their son’s headaches turned out to be a brain tumour.

Zack Smith, 12, loved playing outdoors or on his PlayStation with his friends before he started to experience severe headaches and nausea.

Kyle Foy, Zack’s older brother, told TeesideLive : “When you see people on the telly say ‘It was like a bad dream’ that’s exactly what it is like.

“You don’t really appreciate what people have to go through until you go through it yourself.”

On August 16, Zack’s family thought he had come down with a bug and a few days later he tried to take a nap but the Year 8 pupil started complaining about the worst headache.

Kyle said: “But he was just whimpering and saying he had the worst headache in the world.

“It’s not like Zack at all, he’s come home with rocks in his knees, he’s not one to moan about pain.

“There have been times he’s come home from school with a sickness bug, but you don’t automatically think it’s a brain tumour.”

Mum Zoe contacted 111 and was advised to call an ambulance, but Zack refused one.

Kyle added: “Zack said to my mam, ‘There’s more people that need an ambulance than me’.”

Kyle said he then drove Zack and his mum to North Tees Hospital, but Zack started to feel worse.

Kyle said: “He was acting really strange as if he was drunk. He was in a bit of a daze, he was slurring his words.”

At the hospital, Zack suffered a seizure and he had to be sedated and put on a ventilator.

A brain and CT scan showed Zack had a lesion on the brain.

Kyle said: “They said there was a build-up of fluid that had caused the seizure, so he had to get rushed to James Cook to get the fluid drained that was causing pressure.”

Once Zack was stable, he was transferred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, where he remained in intensive care for a week.

Kyle said: “They confirmed at the RVI on the Friday night that it was a brain tumour and it had spread, they found cancerous cells in his spine.”

The hospital quickly started Zack’s chemotherapy treatment, which is due to last roughly 12 months.

He was able to come home for a few weeks, but after taking a bad turn, he is now back at the RVI.

Kyle said: “He’s not himself at the minute, he’s confused and just exhausted.

“He’s had three weeks of chemotherapy and that takes it out of him as well.

“And he’s only got a small frame on him anyway, he’s a skinny lad.”

In the coming months, Zack will undergo further tests to assess any damage to his brain from the seizure.

Zoe has stayed by his side the majority of the time, and Kyle goes and stays with him on Friday nights.

Kyle said only two people are allowed to visit Zack because of Covid.

Kyle added: “We know we’ve got a battle ahead but we just can’t wait to see him get through it, if anyone can, our Zack can. He’s just brilliant, he amazes us all the time.

“With what he’s going through, some of the stuff he still comes out with is hilarious. He’s keeping us going.”