Holton-le-Clay teenager fights infection that medics have never seen before
A TEENAGE snooker star who has lived with a brain tumour for eight years is recovering from a unique life-threatening infection.
Sixteen-year-old Blake Munton, of Holton-le-Clay, has spent five months in hospital and at one point weighed just under four stone while medical experts desperately tried to fight the infection which has never been recorded in medical history.
The former Birkbeck pupil has been living with a non-cancerous brain tumour since he was eight, yet when the shunt which drains fluid from his brain to his stomach became infected, nothing doctors tried to fight it with seemed to work.
After six operations and contracting meningitis, doctors discovered a fungal infection, called aspergillis, had spread from his stomach, up the shunt and into his brain – something which has never been recorded before.
Doctors at Sheffield Children's Hospital controlled the infection just in time and fighter Blake – who competed in the English Under 19 Junior Snooker Championship last year – finally returned home this month, where he has been playing his beloved snooker every day.
He said: "I am just so glad to be back – coming home is all I have thought about since going to hospital. And snooker, of course."
In 2004, Blake was rushed to hospital after suffering a seizure in Cuba while on holiday with his parents, Brian and Carol, and an MRI scan revealed he had a large tumour in the back of his head.
It had caused a fluid build-up in his brain, which had been causing dizziness for nearly a year, so Cuban surgeons fitted a shunt to release the fluid into his stomach.
Since then, he has had radiotherapy in Sheffield to shrink the tumour and four more shunts fitted in the UK, but six months ago his stomach became bloated, so his parents took him back to Sheffield.
Brave Blake didn't want to go to hospital but within a week, he underwent a two-hour operation where surgeons drained 3.5 litres of fluid from his stomach – just weeks after he ran a 5km route for charity.
After draining the fluid, doctors discovered aspergillis on the shunt fitted in Cuba, so he underwent a second operation, this time lasting four hours, to remove it.
Blake continued to suffer with the infection, despite drips pumping his body with antibiotics and antifungicides all day long for weeks.
So doctors operated again to remove another shunt and install one on the outside of his head, which released fluid into a bag.
Unfortunately, a stitch burst and he contracted meningitis through the wound. Doctors upped the dose of antibiotics to fight the disease as, by this point, Blake's immune system was almost totally inactive.
Father Brian, 44, said: "There were a couple of times when we thought we might lose him.
"The doctors were trying to save his life but he spent so long on antibiotics that his immune system was shot, which made many treatments impossible."
Blake then had another operation to remove the exterior shunt and fit another on the other side of his head, yet nothing seemed to be working and doctors were baffled.
They contacted neurosurgeons worldwide, but none identified the problem. Then, a breakthrough.
A cloudy area on a brain scan revealed that aspergillis had spread from his stomach, up the shunt and into his brain – something that had never been recorded in history.
Powerful drugs were used to treat the infection and a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line was fitted directly from his arm to his heart. The line later broke and they had to install another; the last of sixth operations.
Blake, who listened to Michael Buble's song "Home" every day while in hospital, finally left hospital this month.
He still has the aspergillis infection but it is now being controlled, although he has no idea how it will affect him in the future.
Brian said: "No one has ever had this kind of infection on the brain before so we have no idea what will happen – we are totally blind.
"We are just enjoying having him home and think it is amazing how well he is doing."
Mum Carol, 51, added: "He has been incredibly brave throughout. No matter what happened, he never grumbled and has kept us laughing every day. I am so glad to have him home."
Blake has been playing a game of snooker every day since he got home and hopes to get back to 4-6 hours a day when he is fit again.
“Even if I only live until I am thirty, I think that I will become a professional, if I put the hours in, After everything that has happened, now I feel like I can do anything.”
But before he does, he’s taking some much needed time out with a holiday at Centre Parcs in Nottingham, made possible by Marathon fundraiser Surinder Fowler who donated £439 for the holiday and £50 spending money for Blake.
Surinder said: “I have been looking for special children to help and that is what I have found with Blake. It is not easy doing what I do to raise money but seeing his smile makes every mile worthwhile.”