Sunderland teenager heads to Florida for life-saving brain treatment

Michelle Burdis and Steven Neal with their 16-year-old daughter, Alex Neal who has to go to America for brain treatment.
Michelle Burdis and Steven Neal with their 16-year-old daughter, Alex Neal who has to go to America for brain treatment.
Have your say

ALEX Neal faces a desperate trip to America for three months of brain treatment that could save her life.

The Castletown 16-year-old was diagnosed with a rare tumour, when an eye test revealed an abnormality after she had been suffering migraines.

A scan discovered a bone tumour growing into her pituitary gland and brain, and attached to nerves in her eye.

Two weeks ago, she underwent invasive brain surgery at Newcastle RVI to remove it.

But surgeons could only take half away, because it is attached to her eye.

Now doctors have told the Sunderland College student she must fly thousands of miles to Jacksonville, Florida, for 10 to 12 weeks of special radiotherapy to save her eye and, potentially, her life.

Alex will make the journey with dad Steven Neal, 49, of Castletown.

Her mother Michelle Burdis, 39, of Coach Road, Washington, will stay behind, as the hospital can only afford to pay for one parent to make the trip.

But cousin Leanne Neal, 26, of Albany, Washington, said Alex needs them both for support.

“She wants her mam there,” she said.

“Alex’s mam and dad aren’t together, she lives with her dad and stepmam Annette Neal, but she is close to them both and needs her mam there.

“Her mam is devastated, and she’s in shock.”

Alex has been unable to open her eye since undergoing surgery, and has had difficulty moving around.

“She’s been bumping into things,” said Leanne. “Up until about a week ago, she had been coping really well.

“I think she thought she would have been able to open her eye after the operation.”

Alex will have proton beam therapy to treat the tumour in America.

The tumour is not live at the moment, but if left it will continue to grow, taking her sight and potentially her life.

“It is affecting her growth and nerves,” said Leanne. “Which means she will have to be on hormone replacement therapy for the rest of her life.

“She doesn’t want to be away from her mam that long, so we are trying to raise the money so she can go.”

Alex’s family have rallied together to try to raise £5,000 so Michelle can make the trip. “So far, we have raised about £245,” said Leanne. “We are organising charity events, and would be grateful of any help.”

The family, including Alex’s four sisters and two brothers, are helping to raise money.

“Her mam is helping as much as she can, even though she is looking after Alex,” said Leanne, whose mother Janette Neal, 46, of Blackfell, has set up a Go Fund Me page so people can donate.

“We want enough money so that Michelle can fly to America, pay for her accommodation and have enough money to live off,” said Leanne.

“Anything extra will be donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust, because they looked after Alex in hospital.”

To donate, visit and search Janette Neal.

l Comment – Page 18