Lanarkshire teen who had orange-sized brain tumor removed, gets set for exams

A brave Lanarkshire teen found to have a brain tumor the size of an orange, wrote her surgeon a note telling him it wasn’t his fault if she died.

Beth McKenzie, from Blantyre, was taken to see her GP for tests after she began vomiting, having headaches and pain in her eyes.

The 16-year-old was rushed to the emergency department at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow where she was handed into the care of neurosurgeon Roddy O’Kane.

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An eight hour operation was scheduled for June 4 last year, but before it could begin, the medic was handed a note that Beth had written for him.

It read: “Mr O’Kane, thank you for saving me and treating me like an adult, telling me the truth. You’re right, I can take it.

“Thank you for doing everything you can, and if I didn’t make it in the end, thank you for trying. It’s not your fault.

“These things just happen. From Beth.”

Beth in hospital after her surgery
Beth in hospital after her surgery

Thankfully, the operation was a success and Beth is now studying hard for her Higher exams – just 10 months after going under the knife.

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Mum Clare explained how Beth’s diagnosis turned the family’s world upside down and feared that history could be repeating itself.

She old Lanarkshire Live: “My mum had a brain tumor when I was 22.

“It was a secondary cancer and she had it removed. But doctors couldn’t find the primary and she died.

“It all came flooding back. I was so worried when they said Beth had a tumor. It was tough to hear, but you go on to autopilot. I had to be strong for Beth.”

The next day the family were given the good news that all the tumor had been successfully removed – however, they then had to endure an anxious wait for the result of the biopsy.

Thankfully it showed Beth’s tumor to be a Meningioma and was non-malignant.

The school girl is understandably grateful to the surgeon but admits she did fear she may not survive.

Beth told us: “I thought I was going to die. I wrote a note to Roddy saying that if I did die on the operating table, it was not his fault. He was trying his best from him.

“I didn’t want him to feel responsible. Roddy and the team saved my life. I love Roddy, he gives a sense of hope and joy that you just cling on to.

“When I came round the first thing I saw out of one was my mum and dad at the bottom of my bed. Later on Roddy and the anaesthetist came to see me.

“I asked Roddy if I could header a ball yet and he said I couldn’t do that.”

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The stellar surgeon admits that he still carries the note Beth wrote him around in his wallet and hails his ‘lucky pants’ for helping make the operation a success.

The dad-of-three said: “Anaesthetic time can take an hour so I get my breakfast before I start the operation. I am quite traditional and superstitious.

“I always have a roll, square sausage, and a potato scone. I wear the same lucky socks and the same lucky pants – there’s holes in them but I’m not throwing them out, they’ve done some cracking operations.

“And I always park my car in the same space when I operate.

“When I got to the theater, one of the nurses handed me a note. It certainly makes you skip a heartbeat and brings a tear to your eye.

“It is beautiful, innocent and sincere; the maturity, understanding and openness of it. I still have it in my wallet.”

He added: “As a parent, I can empathize. I’d be exactly like the parents of my patients because it is a naturally emotional thing.

“My profession is the greatest reward. It is a beautiful thing to be able to do.

“There is a whole team of people who worked with me to get Beth through that journey, anaesthetists, theater staff, nurses, physios, MRI, radiology, pathology, porters, canteen staff – the list is endless.

“I always get the thanks but I can’t do it without them.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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