Soldier, 20, undergoes brain surgery while he’s AWAKE – and result is heartbreaking

Cameron had everything to look forward to.

At just 20, he had qualified as an army medic and had the prospect of a bright career in his dream job ahead of him.

But then, after being struck down with an infection that he couldn’t shake, his world fell apart.

Cameron, from Lancashire, was initially diagnosed with meningitis, but then he was given a devastating bombshell diagnosis – he was battling a brain tumour.

His only hope at a normal life, and even survival, is ground breaking surgery at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Not only will one of the hospital’s top consultants, Ismail Ughratdar, have to operate on his brain, Cameron will be awake for a huge part of the operation.

He will have to talk during his operation to ensure the removal of part of the tumour isn’t causing problems.

One mistake could be the difference between a successful surgery and a catastrophic failure that will leave the young solider unable to talk or paralysed down his right-hand side.

His story is told as part of BBC Two’s Surgeons: At The Edge of Life, tonight at 9pm.

Cameron’s surgeon, Ismail, said: “Every day I go and pray. I have a spiritual check for looking after my patients.

“It reminds me that I’m human and I’m not infalliable and I’m accountable not just to regulatory bodies and my colleagues but also humans and a higher being.

“Failure is absolutely possible and that’s what drives me, that I don’t fail my patients and do everything I can to reduce the risk.”

Following Cameron’s heartbreaking diagnosis, he knew there was only one surgeon he wanted to carry out the complext operate – Ismail.

Cameron said: “I knew I wanted Ismail to be my surgeon, I didn’t want anyone else.”

With him in the operating theatre is speech therapist, Becky Marr.

Her job is crucial – she need to continually assess whether what’s being done to Cameron’s brain is affecting his ability to speak.

For the first part of the surgery, Cameron is asleep but then the team need to bring him round to check nothing being done to his brain is causing permanent problems.

Ismail said: “It can be catastrophic to remove too much of the tumour. It can turn someone who is completely independent into someone who is completely dependent.”

The first part of the surgery is a success but when Cameron comes to he is anxious, scared and has forgotten he is in an operating theatre.

And some of Becky’s tests make the young soldier even more terrified when he is unable to speak as stimulus are run through his tumour site.

Becky said: “He really gets upset because it makes him remember that this could be the outcome if the surgery doesn’t go to plan.”

 

Ismail adds: “You can’t appreciate what it’s like to be awake for a procedure.”

And while Cameron and his medical team are battling his brain tumour in the operating theatre, his worried patients keep vigil outside.

His mum, Jackie, said: “He just wants to be a soldier and be in the army and we just want to get him to this stage.”

Ismail manages to remove 80 percent of Cameron’s tumour – taking any more could have permanently damaged his speech.

But his fight is far from over. It will be several weeks before medics know if his speech has been affected – or if his tumour is malignant.

Two weeks later, the newly qualified army medic is back at hospital for the results of his biopsy.

While his speech has been unaffected by the gruelling six-hour surgery, the news is not good for the 20-year-old.

Cameron has grade three cancer and needs both chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Even with this treatment, his prognosis is only years rather than decades.

Ismail said: “The ultimate challenge is giving him the bad news that he has cancer.

“Unfortunately we can’t cure it and his prognosis is measured in years rather than decades.

“Especially in someone so young, like Cameron, it really hits home.

“It certainly makes you appreciate your life, your health and your family.”

Surgeons: At The Edge of Life is on BBC Two at 9pm tonight.