AN Almeria family are in a race against time to raise £150,000 (€176,000) to send their critically ill son to the USA for treatment that could save his life.
Four-year-old Leo Bermejo has one of the most aggressive forms of cancer seen in children and has already had several tumours removed.
The operations and subsequent chemotherapy have left him brain damaged but his mother Karen says he is fighting back and determined to overcome the effects of his treatment.
“He keeps defying all the doctors. He is so happy, when you see him he is playing, he laughs, he does everything.”
Little Leo’s next operation is at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Merseyside on February 8.
This surgery will remove the last of the tumours in his brain.
But they regrow at amazing speed – one of them returned in just seven weeks.
Once surgeons at Alder Hey have removed the last of the tumours Leo will be left permanently handicapped if he then undergoes conventional radiotherapy.
“They have told us it will be extremely damaging for him,” said Karen, who lives with her Spanish husband Jorge Bermejo and their daughter Sofia, in Vera Playa.
“He will be destined for a lifetime of disabilities and problems and he will never be able to live on his own or do anything for himself.
“That means the only option we have is proton therapy. It’s his only chance to progress. Oklahoma have treated this type of tumour before and they say they’ve had no relapses. We have to do it for Leo.”
The stay in Oklahoma and the need for several phases of treatment means the family have just weeks to raise the £150,000 needed to send Leo to the USA before the tumours regrow.
“Although there are clinics in Europe, like Switzerland, there is the language barrier to overcome,” says Karen.
She says the proton therapy in Oklahoma will be under the guidance of US specialist, Dr Andrew Chang.
“He has been in touch with Alder Hey and he has a lot of experience with Leo’s type of cancer.
“With proton therapy Leo can still progress. He will still have the chance to learn again, to move his right side, speak again and he won’t have problems that will affect his organs in the future.
“This really is Leo’s last hope for a life and we have to take it.”
If you would like to help little Leo, the family have set up a page at www.gofundme.com/leothelion3
A Facebook group has been set up: Leo the Lion’s fight for survival.
Donations can also be made directly from the EWN home page.