Grangemouth tot born with a large tumour celebrates her first birthday

A Grangemouth tot, who was born with a large tumour and underwent two lifesaving operations in her first weeks of life, has celebrated her first birthday with her family.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 12:30 pm
Lily Graham celebrates her first birthday with mum Nikki Aitken, dad Gary Graham, sister Ellie (7) and brother Owen (3). Pictures: Michael Gillen

Lily Graham was born during lockdown on May 5 last year at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital with a tumour which weighed more than a kilo.

When she was just days old she had an operation to remove the mass, which grew from her tail bone, round and over her abdomen to her rib cage.

She spent six weeks in the neonatal unit before being allowed to go home.

Lily with mum Nikki Aitken and dad Gary Graham at the family's Grangemouth home. Pic: Michael Gillen.

Medical staff performed an emergency operation, saving her life a second time in the first eight weeks after she was born, when she had a complete bowel obstruction and couldn’t breathe.

The tumour has also left the youngster with a number of other health problems, which require regular monitoring at the hospital.

But this week Lily celebrated her first birthday with mum Nikki Aitken, dad Gary Graham, big sister Ellie who is seven, and three-year-old brother Owen.

Nikki said: “It doesn’t feel like she should be turning one. I don’t know if it’s just because of what we’ve been through in the last year and with lockdown we’ve not really been able to do too much, but where has the last year gone?

Mum says sister Ellie (7) and brother Owen (3) are "absolutely brilliant" with their wee sister Lily. Pic: Michael Gillen.

“When Lily was born it was six weeks before we could bring her home to meet Ellie and Owen.

"It will be nice to be able to spend her birthday all together this year as a proper family.”

The family planned to spend Lily’s birthday yesterday (Wednesday) at the zoo, before having a wee party with Nikki’s side of the family at the weekend.

She said: “It’s not what I would usually do for a first birthday.

"Normally I would have a big party with my side of the family and my partner’s side of the family there, but we can’t with lockdown restrictions.

"Also, I don’t think Lily could handle that many people there at once.”

For mum and dad it’s been a year of regular hospital appointments and uncertainty as medical staff have been keeping a close eye on their daughter – made all the more difficult and stressful as the country has been going through a pandemic placing restrictions on all aspects of life.

“We’ve had a few scares, thinking her tumour was returning towards the end of last year,” Nikki said.

"We finally got the all clear last week that there was no tumour.

“It felt like the good news was taking forever to come.

“It feels like the full weight has been lifted off our shoulders knowing there is no tumour there.

“We’re so grateful and lucky that we have managed to get to her first birthday.

"A few times we didn’t think we would, especially in the first couple of months when she had to have the two lifesaving operations, and with the scare that the tumour was coming back or had moved somewhere else.

"We feel lucky we’re here where we are.

“This last year I felt I could have moved into the hospital. We were there every week for an appointment, sometimes several times a week.

"There was one day we had three appointments back to back, and that wasn’t the only time we were there that week.

"Her appointments have started to slow down, so there is longer between them and we’re not there every week now.

“It was nice they were keeping so many close checks on her, but not to have that every single week like we were, now we can have a bit of a breather.

"Although there are still a lot of uncertainties going forward for Lily, it’s nice to know that everything just now seems to be looking okay, apart from a few wee things we’re trying to deal with.

“We knew things were going to be different with Lily, but it feels like we’re new parents for the first time again.

"Everything is new with Lily and it’s a learning game still with her needs.”

The tumour has left Lily with other health problems, including some with her kidneys, lungs and bladder.

The position of the tumour means there is uncertainty over the potential nerve and muscle damage that has been done.

It is not known if she will be able to reach the milestones that most children would, like crawling and walking.

However, the family remain hopeful.

Nikki explained: “The only thing Lily is able to do at the moment is sit a wee bit herself unaided.

"She can’t crawl, roll or walk like other children her age.

"You can see she’s getting frustrated with it at times.

"It’s like her mind wants her to move but her legs just won’t let her.

"We’re hopeful it will happen, but it may take longer for her.”

It may have been a challenging year for the whole family, but Nikki and Gary’s three children have already formed a strong, close bond.

Nikki added: "Ellie and Owen are absolutely brilliant with her.

"They sit and play with her and make her laugh.

“She adores them.

"Her wee face lights up when they sit with her and there are lots of giggles.

"They know a lot of what’s to happen with her care and they want to help where they can.

"There’s obviously some things they can’t help with, but there’s others they can get involved in.

"They have been brilliant.”

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