‘My surgeon saved my life’ - 24-year old student’s praise for N&N doctors after successful treatment of highly rare tumour

April Heath, who was saved by N&N surgeons after suffering a very rare stomach tumour.

April Heath, who was saved by N&N surgeons after suffering a very rare stomach tumour. - Credit: Archant

Surgeons at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have been hailed as life-savers by a student after they successfully treated her extremely rare condition.

In what is believed to only be the fourth reported case in the world - N&N surgeons managed to prevent 24-year old April Heath from bleeding to death by removing a life-threatening stomach tumour.

Miss Heath, who is training to be a teacher, said: 'My surgeon has saved my life. I am cancer free and on the road to recovery.'

Her traumatic ordeal began when she started to feel lethargic and dizzy.

She was told by her GP that she had labyrinthitis, an inner ear infection, and was given drugs.

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But Miss Heath became paler and weaker and stayed with her boyfriend Matt Hewitt in Aylsham - before his family rang their GP who ordered a blood test and found she an exceptionally low blood-count (four units - a healthy person should have 10-12 units).

She was rushed to the N&N for blood transfusions but it was only five days later that doctors found out what the problem was.

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Miss Heath had suffered a 4cm diameter plexiform angiomyxoid myofibroblastic tumour of the stomach, which had burst - causing severe bleeding.

'It was terrifying,' Miss Heath said.

'I was told hours before surgery that I was to go into theatre. And because of the placement of the tumour it was going to be a major operation.'

Her surgeon Ed Cheong said: 'It was a very rare and complex tumour.

'For someone of her age and health to get such a tumour is very unusual. She needed surgery or she would have bled to death.'

Miss Heath added: 'My body went into shock. I was crying uncontrollably.

'For the first time during my stay at hospital, I felt lost.'

But keen athlete Miss Heath, who plays flag football for Great Britain, used the determination gleaned from her years as a sportswomen to help her stay positive.

'My thoughts then naturally turned to flag football (a form of non-contact american football)', Miss Heath said.

'The theatre became my stadium and I was the participating international athlete.

'Seeing it all within this light offered me the familiarity and solace which I needed at that moment in time.'

After a three-hour surgery, in which doctors removed the tumour, Miss Heath started the long road to recovery - while anxiously awaiting news of whether or not the cancer had spread in her body.

'I set myself manageable goals,' she said. First standing, then walking, then showering, then eating and moving independently.'

Three weeks later she was given the news she had been praying for - the tumour was benign.

Mr Cheong added: 'She did fantastically well and I think the fact that she is a fit and healthy athlete helped her a lot.'

Miss Heath is so thankful for the care she was given that she is now fundraising for the N&N.

She has held a fundraising night and plans to do sponsored runs and produce a video.

To donate visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/April-Heath

Have you got a health story? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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