Football community rallies around Leeds toddler who faces gruelling recovery from brain tumour

The parents of a Leeds toddler diagnosed with a brain tumour are astounded by the support they've received from their local football community.

Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 5:21 pm
Kasper McMullen, who turns two next month, pictured in LGI after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumour

One-year-old Kasper McMullen is in hospital recovering from major surgery to remove a tumour the size of a satsuma on his brain stem.

He will need a year's course of chemotherapy after parents Paul, 38, and Emma, 36, received the devastating news that the tumour was cancerous.

The McMullen family have been flooded with messages of support and Paul's former football teammates have launched a fundraising campaign to raise money for Kasper.

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Paul McMullen, centre, with his No 11 shirt pictured with Main Line Social and HT Sports at the charity fundraising match (Photo: Steve Riding)

Kasper began to lose his mobility, speech and appetite in January and was taken to Leeds General Infirmary on July 31 after his condition worsened.

Following a CT scan, doctors found high pressure on Kasper's brain and he was rushed into emergency surgery to release the pressure and safe his life.

A tumour the size of a satsuma was detected directly on his brain stem.

Kasper underwent a 14-hour operation two days later, where a team led by neurosurgeon Dr John Goodden successfully removed 99 per cent of the tumour.

Kasper's parents Paul, 38, and Emma, 36, who take turns to be by his side in hospital

His parents, who live in Pudsey with Kasper's two older brothers, thanked NHS staff for saving their son's life.

Paul said: "I was at work half an hour away when I got the call from Emma at the hospital. By the time I got there they were prepping him to do the operation, it was that urgent.

"Dr Goodden and the NHS staff are amazing and I can’t thank them enough, I don't know how they do it. They have saved my boy's life."

Kasper is expected to start a year's course of chemotherapy next week and may need proton therapy in Manchester.

Kasper with his brothers, 13-year-old Ryan and Ashton, seven, who cannot visit him in hospital

Current visiting restrictions due to Covid-19 mean Paul and Emma have to take turns by their toddler's side, swapping over at about 7pm each day.

Kasper's brothers, 13-year-old Ryan and Ashton, seven, cannot visit him in hospital.

Paul, who is currently living at LGI to be with Kasper overnight, added: "Kasper has had a tough time with this tumour due to the placement directly onto the brain stem - it controls most neurological parts of your body such as breathing, talking, swallowing.

"He contracted meningitis and got an infection from the stent in his head. We’d go forward and he’d start breathing and then we’d have two steps back.

"The worst part for me was when he had the tube in his throat and he was awake, looking at me and crying, but not making a noise because he couldn’t. It was as if he was saying, 'dad could you take it out?'

"It was horrible, I broke down. I’d swap places with him today if I could as I’m sure any parent would.

“He's been through so much but he’s really fighting it, it’s amazing."

Paul is well known within his local football community, winning cups with Beeston St Anthony's, HT Sports and Main Line Social.

On Sunday, Paul joined two of his former teams, Main Line Social and HT Sports, who battled it out in a charity match to raise money for Kasper.

Kasper missed out on a holiday with his brothers earlier this year and is likely to need expensive equipment following his recovery.

A local indoor five-a-side venue, Football World Leeds, is hosting a tournament and charity raffle on Sunday 30 to raise money to support the family.

A group of Paul's football friends are cycling from Leeds to Scarborough on Saturday 12 and have already raised more than £3,000.

Paul said: "It's unreal the support we've had, it's been amazing. I can't put it into words how thankful we are.

"The local football community in Leeds has come together during these terrible times to help and support us as a family.

"People who I used to play with as a kid have messaged me, people from as far as Thailand and Australia.

"I've even had people who I've had disagreements with on the football pitch message me, putting all that aside to support Kasper.

"It's unbelievable and we will never forget it."

You can support the fundraising bike ride for Kasper on this GoFundMe page.A message from the Editor:

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Thank you

Laura Collins