Birmingham Children’s Hospital helps Orla celebrate her first birthday after eye cancer diagnosis

Orla Kearney travels from her home in Scotland to Birmingham every three weeks

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Gorgeous tot Orla Kearney will celebrate her first birthday today (Monday, August 29) – after being diagnosed with a rare eye cancer at just nine months old.

Little Orla Kearney was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in June after medics found three tumours behind her eyes. A few weeks before, her parents Morgan Gillan, 21, and Thomas Kearney, 31, noticed Orla had developed a squint in her right eye.

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Mum-of-two Morgan thought Orla might need glasses – but was devastated when she was told the tot had cancer and had become blind in her right eye.

Morgan from Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway, said: “We couldn’t plan much for her birthday because of how she is feeling. We have to be careful about her being around anyone else who has a bug, but we are having family round."

Orla has already undergone three gruelling rounds of chemotherapy at Glasgow Royal Hospital for Children and has another three to go. Her parents take her to Birmingham Children’s Hospital every three weeks for laser treatment on the tumours – and said she hasn’t spent a full month at home since June.

Little Orla Kearney and mum MorganLittle Orla Kearney and mum Morgan
Little Orla Kearney and mum Morgan

Morgan said: “At the end of May we noticed she had a slight squint in her right eye. I wasn’t overly worried at that point because she was still so young, I thought the eye maybe just wasn’t focussing correctly.

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“Two weeks later I thought it was looking a bit worse so took her to our GP because it wasn’t sitting right with me. The doctor could see something in the back of her eye but didn’t know exactly what so sent us straight to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.

“They had a look and said there was something hanging behind her eye but I still wasn’t too worried at this point. I’d been doing a bit of research and thought it was maybe a detached retina or a bit of dirt behind her eye.

“They sent us home and the next day I got a call telling us to go up to Glasgow Royal Hospital for Children. It was then we were told she had three tumours, one behind her right eye and two behind her left.

“It was so scary, it all happened in such a short space of time. Within a few days we went from thinking it was something minor, like she would have a squint or need glasses, to be told she had cancer.

Orla Kearney travels to Birmingham Children’s Hospital from her home in Scotland every three weeks for laster treatment for eye cancerOrla Kearney travels to Birmingham Children’s Hospital from her home in Scotland every three weeks for laster treatment for eye cancer
Orla Kearney travels to Birmingham Children’s Hospital from her home in Scotland every three weeks for laster treatment for eye cancer
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“It was heartbreaking, you read about it happening to other people but never think it will happen to you. I just kept thinking ‘how can she have cancer she doesn’t look ill’. It was really hard to process it all.”

Morgan said medics still don’t know if Orla will also lose the vision in her left eye but was relieved to be told the cancer is not terminal. She said the cost of all the hospital travel has taken a strain on their finances with unexpected expenses.

Orla Kearney travels to Birmingham Children’s Hospital from her home in Scotland every three weeks for treatment for eye cancerOrla Kearney travels to Birmingham Children’s Hospital from her home in Scotland every three weeks for treatment for eye cancer
Orla Kearney travels to Birmingham Children’s Hospital from her home in Scotland every three weeks for treatment for eye cancer

Morgan said: “The doctors told us we have caught it early enough and the treatment would be to save her eyes, not her life. She is completely blind in the right eye and doesn’t have much vision in the left.

“We won’t know if she is going to be completely bind until her treatment is finished. They think she has had the tumour and been blind the right eye since she was about two months old.

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“Obviously we only became aware of it because the tumour was pushing on the eye which caused the squint. She didn’t give us any signs she couldn’t see but her vision must have been so bad from such an early age she has just adapted to it and never known anything else.

“The treatment she is having in Birmingham works with the chemo to try and get rid of the tumours. We have to go down there every three weeks, we arrive on the Sunday night and she has her treatment on the Monday morning.

“It takes a toll on you financially because you are spending on things you wouldn’t normally account for month to month. You are eating out more because you are at the hospital and the facilities there are all you have, so you are spending money you normally wouldn’t."

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