Boy's life saved by mum after blood vessels on brain 'exploded'

Doctors told Josh's parents he might not have made it had his mum not acted so quickly.

East Lothian boy’s life saved by mum as Edinburgh Sick Kids doctors find veins in head ‘exploded’ Ronald McDonald House Charities UK

A nine-year-old boy who had a swelling on his brain which “exploded” had his life saved by his mum after he fell ill on a pumpkin picking trip.

Josh Pollard, from North Berwick, was pumpkin picking with his mum Jayne in October 2021 when he suddenly had to be rushed to hospital, and required immediate emergency brain surgery.

Josh initially said that he felt unwell while Jayne phoned her husband Ben, but then his health took a turn for the worse and he declined rapidly.

He became “completely unresponsive” while Jayne phoned for an ambulance.

In the 15 minutes while waiting for help, Josh had four seizures.

Ben said: “He later found out he may not have made it, had Jayne not acted so swiftly.”

Doctors at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh where they discovered an arteriovenous malformation in his brain – meaning a cluster of veins in his head were not regulating pressure correctly.”

Ben explained: “The doctors later told us they’d likely been swelling for up to a year – and had eventually exploded. 

“This formed a clot on the left-hand side of his brain, which paralysed the entire right side of his body. He couldn’t walk or talk – he was essentially a newborn at nine years old. 

“As we waited in hospital, we were told he would have to be operated on immediately.”

The veins in Josh's head had been swelling for up to a year, doctors said.Ronald McDonald House Charities UK

The nine-year-old spent four days in intensive care and would need another operation three weeks later. 

The second operation left him unable to walk or talk for the first few weeks afterwards and there was a long road ahead involving daily occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

Josh spent a total of four months in hospital.

During his time there he was offered a place to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Edinbugh where his parents were allowed to stay with him.

The Pollards became the second longest staying residents after Josh was discharged in February 2022.

Josh, pictured with his sister Astrid and mum Jayne, spent four months in hospital.Ronald McDonald House Charities UK

Ben described how it was “incredibly difficult” to leave, having forged great relationships with the staff and other families going through similarly tough times.

He said: “We struck up amazing relationships with other families. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone going through this.

“Leaving was hard because we’d made such good friends, but we still see them to this day. We go back and visit and bring each other presents. It’s lovely to know we can still see them – they’re only a short distance drive away.”

Since leaving, Josh and his family have inspired friends and relatives to embark on fundraising activities as a way of showing their gratitude to the charity.

Josh Pollard's family have been fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House which helped them during their time in hospital.Ronald McDonald House Charities UK

Helen Zollinger, community fundraiser for Scotland at Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, said: “We are so pleased to have been able to support Ben, Jayne and their children when Josh was having treatment in hospital and are delighted to hear that he is going from strength to strength on his long road to recovery. 

“It’s great that the family has stayed in touch with us and other families they met in the house – it’s testament to how important the peer support we provide can be.

“As an independent charity, we receive no government funding and rely heavily on the generosity of our supporters to help us provide families with a ‘home away from home’ close to their sick child.

“We thank the Pollard family and their supporters sincerely for their fundraising efforts and for helping to raise awareness of the invaluable service we offer families during their time of need.”