Boy, ten, with giant tumour on his neck could be cured with VIAGRA

  • Life-threatening growth threatened to stop Jose Serrano breathing
  • Surgeons cannot safely operate until the cystic growth is smaller
  • Viagra medicine has been discovered to shrink growths in children

By MARK DUELL | Mail Online

PUBLISHED: 17:10 GMT, 10 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:16 GMT, 10 November 2013

A ten-year-old boy with a giant tumour on his neck could be cured after being prescribed Viagra.

Jose Serrano, of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was losing time as the life-threatening growth could stop him breathing by putting pressure on his windpipe, with surgeons desperate to operate.

But it will not be safe until the cystic growth, known as a lymphangioma, is smaller. Viagra, which is most famous for helping male impotence, has been discovered to shrink growths in children.

Feeling happier: Jose Serrano, of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had been losing time as the life-threatening growth threatened to stop him breathing by putting pressure on his windpipe, with surgeons desperate to operate

Feeling happier: Jose Serrano, of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had been losing time as the life-threatening growth threatened to stop him breathing by putting pressure on his windpipe, with surgeons desperate to operate

Jose is now taking the medicine in the hope he will one day be able to live life as a normal boy.

He said: ‘If the doctors can cure me I will be so happy. I would be thrilled. I would be healthy and I’d be able to do anything I want. I could run fast, play on the swings and rings – anything I want.’

The growth is rough and scaly and often forms painful cysts. It extends across Jose’s shoulder and restricts his movement.

He cannot swim because the water causes him pain and he gets tired easily if playing football and riding his bike.

And now some of the cysts are invading his lungs and approaching his windpipe. There are also fears it could one day spread to his eyes and affect his vision.

‘It’s been difficult,’ his mother Cindy explained. ‘People stare at him. Some of them have these terrible, morbid looks on their faces.

‘We’ve tried to let Jose lead as normal a life as possible. We let him do everything the other children do, unless it’s unsafe for him or will be too difficult.

‘But sometimes he gets so sad because he is different from other kids. Until now there was simply no money to treat him.’

Another stumbling block for Jose’s family has been the cost. The treatment and surgery to remove the growth will cost a staggering £125,000 ($200,000).

And then there’s the cost of the medication – £1,250 ($2,000) per week, which Jose has needed to be prescribed for several months. But the family have been given funding to cover the price.

‘That is unbelievable amount of money for us,’ his mother said. ‘More money than we’d see in a lifetime. Words can express how grateful we are to the people who have helped us. It’s surreal. It feels like a dream come true.’

Jose’s case was brought to the attention of medical experts after he was spotted by missionaries from the First Baptist Church of Rio Rancho, near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Being brave: The growth is rough and scaly and often forms painful cysts. It extends across Jose's shoulder

Being brave: The growth is rough and scaly and often forms painful cysts. It extends across Jose’s shoulder

They helped his family connect with specialists at the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital.

It was only last year that his mother and her husband Jose Ramirez Sr even found out what was causing the growth their son has had since he was a baby.

Help: The cost of Jose's ongoing care is being funded with help from a hospital, fundraisers from a church and donations from around the worldHelp: The cost of Jose’s ongoing care is being funded with help from a hospital, fundraisers from a church and donations from around the world

‘When Jose was born with the growth we were terrified for him,’ she recalled. ‘The doctors told me it was very likely the baby wouldn’t even survive the night.

‘I felt bad because we didn’t have the financial resources to get him the help he needed.’

Mr Ramirez Sr added: ‘The little ball he had as a baby has grown and now it’s spreading to the sides. It seems to be filling up more. The first year was difficult because we didn’t know what could happen and if we could hurt him.

‘The lump was as big as his head, so it was difficult to hold him. Because they said he wouldn’t survive, I get a sense of pride to still have him.’

Jose Jr said, beaming: ‘Now I have much more hope. I just want to be able to play and have fun.’

The emotional scenes are captured in new TLC UK series Body Bizarre.

Baptist missionary Patricia Avila stumbled across Jose as she and her husband travelled to Ciudad Juarez, one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous cities, where they work with children in orphanages.

‘We saw him in the street,’ she said. ‘My husband and I turned to each other and said ‘Did you see what I just saw?” I told him “We have to do something”.’

Now the cost of Jose’s ongoing care is being funded with help from the hospital, fundraisers from the church and donations from around the world.

Drug-makers Pfizer have agreed to cover the cost of the Viagra.

The boy’s mother, who has three other children, said: ‘Now we can let ourselves dream about Jose’s future. Who knows, maybe one day he can go to university and make a great life for himself.

‘Our biggest fear was that the condition would be incurable and his life would still be at risk. And, of course, we’re nervous about the surgery. But we’ve been told the chances are good.

‘He’s excited to be able to wear collared shirts like his uncles. There is a girl he has a crush on and he’s hoping she will think he looks handsome.

‘He’s very brave. He’s been through so much yet he always keeps a smile on his face. Now we just have to keep ourselves busy and hope for the best.’

A new medical series follows the family as they bring Jose from Mexico to the US for treatment and as doctors try to diagnose and find a cure for the huge growth.

  • Jose’s story features in episode one of new series Body Bizarre on TLC UK at 10pm on November 11

Follow me on Twitter: @rjamesbarrete

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