LIFE-SAVING U.S. MISSION FOR TODDLER HIT BY FREAK STORM
A COUPLE who rushed to Florida to seek life-saving treatment for their critically ill son were caught up in the hurricane which killed more than 80 people.
Anna and Karl Alcock flew out to Jacksonville two weeks ago in the hope doctors could save two year-old Dylan, who has a brain tumour.
But their plans were thrown into disarray when the city was hit by a storm surge in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma – the first major hurricane to make landfall in the state since 2005.
The ground floor of both hospitals caring for Dylan were flooded and left without power – forcing the family to seek refuge in a nearby hotel and the pioneering treatment to be delayed.
Now the couple, from Tean, fear Hurricane Maria – a new storm which hit the Caribbean yesterday, could also reach the mainland.
Karl’s sister Louise Chandler, whose fund-raising campaign helped pay for the trip, can’t believe the family’s bad luck.
“After all that’s already happened to the family, this is really something else,” she said.
“Anna and Karl have been through the mill in the few weeks since the discovery of Dylan’s tumour, so to be caught up in the first hurricane to hit Florida in more than a decade tops it off completely.
“They were actually staying at the hospital, so when it was flooded and the power lines came down, they had to move to a hotel. Even their hire car was left full of water.
“Communication has been difficult and they’re still trying to discover the full extent of the damage.
“You couldn’t make this stuff up – but at least they’re safe.
“I think the latest hurricane is heading in a similar kind of direction, but we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that they’re not affected again.”
Dylan was diagnosed with grade three ependymoma in August and medics said his best hope would a three-month course of Proton B radiotherapy – a treatment not yet available in the UK.
The two-year old underwent a second operation at Royal Stoke University Hospital to confirm the cancer hadn’t spread and the family left for Florida on September 6.
They’d been at the hospital for only a few days before the hurricane struck.
Louise, a payroll manager for FedEx who also lives in Tean, added: “Dylan was given an MRI and CT scan when they got to Florida and the doctors were going to devise a treatment plan from the results.
“Everything was put on hold when the storm struck, but we were told his therapy will begin this week, so it’s just a matter of hoping that the latest hurricane doesn’t have too much of an effect.
“They were originally scheduled to fly back around mid-November, but I suspect they’ll probably be there longer now with all the delays.”
The fund-raising campaign, meanwhile, continues at a pace with more than £14,000 raised in a month.
The appeal has been boosted by a charity football match involving Karl’s team-mates at Tean Albion, a race night and a special charity weekend at the Blacks Head pub in the village.
Louise said: “Local people have been absolutely fantastic and very generous.
“We were originally looking to raise £3,000, but the total has gone well beyond that very quickly.
“I can’t thank everyone enough and that includes JCB, who paid to upgrade the family’s seats on the plane over there.
“Karl and Anna were a bit anxious about it as Dylan is the kind of boy who won’t sit still and had never flown before.
“Karl used to work at JCB and, when I asked if they could help in any way, they couldn’t have been more helpful – we’re very grateful.
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