NEW YORK CITY - A young boy in New York is in a dire situation after receiving a brain cancer diagnosis amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Matteo Ferruzzi, 4, tested positive for COVID-19, complicating the start of at least a year’s worth of chemotherapy treatment on an inoperable malignant brain tumor.
In February, Matteo showed symptoms of headaches and stomach pains, leading doctors to believe he may have contracted a stomach virus. But the boy’s parents noticed his eyes crossing, and further examination from an ophthalmologist revealed severely swollen optic nerves. Matteo was later rushed to Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park for an MRI.
Jennifer Ferruzzi, Matteo’s mother, knew something was not right the instant a slew of doctors rushed into the hospital room. She was informed Matteo had a large mass on his brain and also hydrocephalus, which is the build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Doctors advised immediate surgery.
While Ferruzzi and her husband longed for second opinions, Matteo’s chances of survival looked grim if he didn't undergo immediate surgery to treat the hydrocephalus.
“That was the worst night of my life obviously, it’s just a parent’s worst nightmare,” Ferruzzi told Fox News.
Shortly after the boy’s brain surgery, medical staff told the family to return home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
At home, fluid quickly began building up in Matteo’s brain, and he underwent a second brain surgery just two days later. Doctors placed a shunt in Matteo’s head, did a spinal tap and put a port in his chest for chemotherapy. Decisions were executed quickly as the port was considered elective surgery. (The U.S. had moved to postpone elective surgeries during the coronavirus pandemic.)
To make matters worse, Ferruzzi soon exhibited COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive and quarantined herself for 14 days. She said she thinks she was exposed to the virus while at the hospital, though "can't say 100 percent for sure."
“It was so hard because he just had surgery and I couldn’t be there with him to make him feel better and to comfort him,” Ferruzzi said. “That was a challenge in itself.”
Not long after, Ferruzzi’s husband, Anthony, and Matteo also tested positive for coronavirus. Ferruzzi’s parents, who are currently watching over Matteo’s siblings — his twin sister, Nicolette, and older brother, Nico — also tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, however, they only displayed mild symptoms, she said.
In an effort to limit the tumor's growth as soon as possible, doctors at Cohen Children's Medical Center are considering beginning Matteo’s chemotherapy in an isolated area of the hospital given his positive COVID-19 test, Ferruzzi said. He can only receive treatment in the hospital's pediatric post-anesthesia unit, where he would normally receive chemotherapy, after testing negative for the novel virus.
“The outpour of love, support and prayers have been incredible — especially when the world is going through such a hard time,” Ferruzzi said. She is grateful for the medical staff at Cohen Children Medical Center, namely neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Mittler, Dr. Mark Atlas, and Dr. Hiren Patel of the oncology team.
Ferruzzi hopes her son's story will raise awareness about brain cancer.
“If your child is exhibiting symptoms for something and they’re complaining about it, definitely have it checked out because it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Ferruzzi said. “Even if it’s nothing, at least you have peace of mind.”
Friends of the Ferruzzi family began a GoFundMe page, with already more than $43,000 raised in support of Matteo.