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Toddler ‘doing great’ after Ukraine brain surgery

Rachel Gribben in hospital with bandages on her headImage source, Katie Jennings

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‘She’s a proper little hero, a little warrior’ – Rachel Gribben, three, underwent brain surgery in Ukraine

A County Down toddler is “doing great” and preparing to return to pre-school this week after having brain surgery in Ukraine.

Rachel Gribben from Killyleagh spent weeks at a hospital in Lviv despite the war in the country.

The three-year-old suffers from a severe form of epilepsy which has led to serious development issues.

She also suffered several injuries to her body caused by falls as a result of seizures.

Image source, Katie Jennings

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Rachel’s mum Katie said bomb sirens were a “daily occurance” during their three-week stay in Lviv

Rachel’s mum, Katie Jennings, told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme that Rachel has taken everything “in her stride”.

“She’s four weeks post-op and she’s going back to pre-school next week,” she said. “She is remarkable.

“There’s not been one complaint, she just gets on with it. She’s a proper little hero, a little warrior.”

Why go to Ukraine for brain surgery?

Rachel was diagnosed with epilepsy in October 2022 but Ms Jennings said she was not a candidate for surgery in the UK because tests showed her seizures were coming from more than one area of the brain.

“I wasn’t willing to accept that this was going to be Rachel’s life of seizures every day,” she said.

“So I researched as much as possible and tried to find a second option elsewhere.”

Ms Jennings said the sound of sirens in Lviv was “pretty much a daily occurrence” during the three weeks they spent in Lviv but by the second night, they slept through them.

“We were told we were halfway there to being Ukrainian as that’s what most people in Lviv do now,” she said.

“The first night hearing the sirens, it was scary, but as a parent you’d go to the end of the world for your child.”

Image source, Katie Jennings

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Paediatric neurosurgeons at St Nicholas Children’s Hospital successfully removed part of the three-year-old’s brain

During the operation, paediatric neurosurgeons at St Nicholas Children’s Hospital successfully removed part of Rachel’s brain to relieve her from the debilitating seizures.

It was the first operation the hospital’s surgeons had performed on a child from outside Ukraine.

The seven-hour procedure took longer than planned, Ms Jennings said, because the grey matter in Rachel’s brain was larger than anticipated.

“But they got every last bit of damaged part of her brain so it was a huge success,” she said.

Rachel has been seizure-free in the four weeks since the surgery.

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