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Irish boy, 2, 'recovering well' after pioneering brain surgery

Liam Heffernan yesterday underwent a gene transfer procedure in a bid to defeat the rare Batten’s Disease.

Liam Heffernan, 2, with his father Tony: Liam yesterday underwent gene replacement surgery to try and combat his Batten's Disease.
Liam Heffernan, 2, with his father Tony: Liam yesterday underwent gene replacement surgery to try and combat his Batten's Disease.

A KERRY TODDLER is said to be recovering well after undergoing pioneering brain surgery in the United States in a bid to defeat a rare neurological disorder.

Liam Heffernan, 2, from Keel in Co Kerry underwent a procedure in New York yesterday to try and counter his disorder, Batten’s Disease, which causes a sufferer’s motor and speech skills to slowly regress as well as triggering seizures and eventual blindness.

The surgery was a gene replacement procedure, involving drilling six small holes in his skull, allowing replacement genes to be administered to 12 locations. The hope is that the cells will recreate themselves and supply a protein currently missing from Liam’s body.

RTÉ reports the news from his parents Tony and Mary who say Liam will now remain at the Weill Cornell University Hospital for at least four weeks, while doctors wait to see whether Liam’s body will accept the genes.

The surgery took place exactly 15 weeks after the death of Liam’s older sister Saoirse, who died of the same illness – and almost a year to the day after Liam was diagnosed with the condition.

Liam is only the fifth child in the world – and the first outside of the United States – to undergo the procedure. Yesterday’s Evening Herald said Liam was also the youngest person to receive the treatment so far.

“What lies ahead is tough for us, but we are confident that the little monster is strong enough and fit enough for all that lies ahead,” father Tony told the paper.

“Recovery will be the most intense part of the entire procedure, which may involve some pain and some serious discomfort,” he added.

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Gavan Reilly

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