Toddler has life-saving surgery to remove tumor thanks to COVID diagnosis

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, February 9, 2023
COVID may have saved toddler's life after brain tumor discovered
A COVID diagnosis may have saved a Long Island toddler's life. Darla Miles has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A COVID diagnosis may have saved a Long Island toddler's life.

Two-and-a-half-year-old William Long of East Islip is lucky to be alive.

Baby William was just 8 months old when he and his parents, Michael and Alexandra, were all diagnosed with COVID-19.

Following a high fever, William suffered a seizure and his concerned parents rushed him to Cohen Children's Medical Center where he was admitted.

"Nothing can explain the feeling, but we are so incredibly lucky," Mom Alexandra Long said. "Lucky that the string of events that led us here."

During a five-day stay in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), Dr. Shaun Rodgers ordered that an MRI be done of William's brain. The MRI revealed a lesion of the right temporal lobe.

At first, Dr. Rodgers thought this might be a case of cortical dysplasia, which occurs before a child is born. This condition happens when developing brain cells, or neurons, fail to reach the parts of the brain for which they are genetically targeted. All of this could have explained the seizure.

"I was terrified," Long said. "My initial thought honestly was that I had to go home and tell my wife that my son has a brain tumor."

William eventually recovered from COVID and continued to be monitored every few months by Dr. Rodgers, who also prescribed anti-seizure medication. The toddler was followed for more than a year to see if the lesion would grow.

By June 2022, Dr. Rodgers noticed that the lesion was growing; the cortical dysplasia was more likely a low-grade brain tumor.

The doctor and his parents decided the best thing to do would be to remove the tumor. The growth had invaded William's temporal lobe, including the hippocampus, the site of short-term memory.

On Dec. 9, 2022, during a six-hour surgery, Dr. Rodgers removed William's right temporal lobe, including the hippocampus.

Amazingly, William will retain his memory because the hippocampus is redundant, meaning that there is another on the left side.

One point on which his parents and surgeon agree is that William is truly unique and COVID might have saved his life.

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