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Roy 2-year-old recovering from large, malignant brain tumor removal

By Jessica Miller (Standard-Examiner staff)

Last Edit: 14 hours 33 min ago (Jan 9 2010 – 10:28pm)

ROY — It’s been quite a week for Alexa Hering.

Over the course of a few days, the 2 1/2-year-old girl went from her normal, active life to surgery to remove a large brain tumor.

(MATTHEW HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) Alexa Hering holds an image of her brain at her home in Roy. Hering, who is 2 1/2 years old, had a brain tumor about the size of a soda can removed from her brain on Jan. 3.

Her parents, Ciara, 20, and Kevin, 21, took Alexa to the doctor on Jan. 1 after her grandparents noticed Alexa’s right arm had become limp and she was losing her balance while she was staying with them the night before.

“That’s when we knew something was wrong,” Ciara said.

The doctor tested Alexa’s strength and referred her to a neurologist at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City where she underwent a CT scan and a spinal tap.

The results were frightening for the young parents.

“The doctor just came in and told us that she had a brain tumor,” Ciara said. “We definitely didn’t expect that. When they showed us the picture (of the tumor,) I don’t even remember thinking about it, I just remember crying.”

The tumor in Alexa’s brain was about the size of a soda pop can, and was located on the frontal lobe on the left side of her brain. Doctors believe it had been growing for the six months, maybe longer.

(MATTHEW HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) Alexa kisses her grandfather, Kurt Hering.

“It was like a punch in the stomach when we saw that,” said Donna Hering, Alexa’s grandmother.

Two days later, surgeons made an incision from ear-to-ear and spent four hours to remove the growth. They were successful in removing the entire tumor. Ciara said Alexa recovered quickly in the intensive care unit.

“It hasn’t fazed her at all,” she said. “She hasn’t really paid attention to her head at all. The only thing she noticed was her IV.”

She was more worried about why her mom and dad were sad and asked for gum.

“The whole time we were up there, she kept wanting to kiss the little owie on my head,” said grandfather Kurt Hering. “And I’m looking at the huge one she’s got and what’s been taken out of her head.”

While Alexa recovered, her family waited for the results of her pathology report.

“I didn’t think anything would come of the pathology reports,” Ciara said. “I thought it would be over and done with. Then on Tuesday, the reports came back and (the tumor) was of high grade and it was malignant.”

The tumor, classified as anaplastic ependymoma, generally grows toward the back of the head. In Alexa’s case, she was lucky to have the growth in the front of her head, where doctors could easily reach and remove it in its entirety. Because it is fully removed, Ciara said Alexa will not have to undergo chemotherapy, but will need a course of radiation.

She will receive 33 treatments at the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City over the next six weeks. She will also have MRIs every few months for the next three years to watch for a regrowth of the tumor.

Alexa was released from the hospital Thursday. By Friday, she was moving normally, playing tea party with her family at their apartment. The sole visible reminder of her surgery is the large row of stitches on the top of her head.

Kurt, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, recently started a blog, https://bumpaslittlesweetie.wordpress.com, documenting his granddaughter’s progress, and also asking for donations to help cover medical costs.

Kevin, who works at GSL Minerals, and Ciara, who is employed at Famous Footwear, are insured for 70 percent of the cost for the treatments. But with a long hospital stay, daily radiation treatments and the time taken off work, Ciara is expecting a big bill.

“To be in the hospital, and everything that they gave her, she had to take certain medications like four times a day, I can’t even imagine what that bill is going to look like,” she said. “And the radiation on top of that. It’s going to be a nice, big bill.”

Donations can be made to a PayPal account on the Web site, or can be sent to Bumpa’s Little Sweetie, c/o Trinity Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 2184, Layton, UT, 84041. Checks can be made out to Kevin Hering.

Ciara said the suddenness of Alexa’s surgery and medical bills have been difficult for the young couple.

“I’m sure it’s overwhelming to anybody,” she said. “Nobody expects this to happen. But it is hard being young; we’re just getting into things. It’s a hard thing to understand. I don’t think I’ve completely got out of that shock.”SClBDespite the difficult situation, Ciara said she’s been amazed by the support the family has received.

“It’s amazing to see the support of everybody, all our family and friends and people we don’t even know,” she said.

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