By CLAIRE ELLICOTT and KATHERINE FAULKNER
Emergency: Zac's parent's are taking him to Germany for immediate treatment
A mother yesterday flew her son to Germany for a lifesaving operation after two NHS hospitals delayed his treatment for lack of beds.
Fearing another 11th-hour cancellation, Sam Knighton has spent £10,000 taking Zac abroad for immediate treatment for neuroblastoma, a form of cancer.
The seven-year-old will be operated on tomorrow at the University Hospital Greifswald in an attempt to remove three diseased lymph nodes.
Last night, Miss Knighton, 43, told the Daily Mail: ‘I feel like Zac’s country has let him down.
Tragic: Cousins Chelsea Knighton when she was aged three pictured left and Zac pictured right, when he was aged five, were both diagnosed with neuroblastoma
'I have had to fight, argue and question everything along the way to help my son.
‘I just hope we’re in time – it could already be too late.
'I dread to think what would have happened if we’d stayed in England.’
Zac began showing symptoms of the disease in October 2008.
He saw two GPs, both of whom missed the neuroblastoma, passing the swelling off as a stomach upset. Finally, a third GP referred him for tests.
No other option: Zac, pictured centre with his parents, Bob Smith left, and Sam Knighton, right who are taking him abroad for a lifesaving operation
Zac was diagnosed with grade four neuroblastoma, a cancer of the developing nervous tissue. There was a 5in-long tumour in his stomach.
Miss Knighton said: ‘The specialist came in to examine Zac. He lifted up his T-shirt and said: 'How in God’s name did two doctors miss that?''
Zac was referred to Leicester Royal Infirmary where he began chemotherapy in March 2009 and then a procedure to remove the tumour.
The hospital told Miss Knighton and her partner Bob Smith, 42, a forklift truck driver, there could still be ‘residual disease’ around the tumour site.
More chemotherapy followed but a delay for a separate illness meant Zac missed the deadline for a vital course of antibody therapy.
Johannes Visser, a consultant paediatric oncologist at Leicester who has been caring for Zac since 2009, said:
‘Unfortunately, our unit was extraordinarily busy with critically ill children needing help to breathe, so his operation was rescheduled.’
A spokesman for Nottingham University Hospitals said: ‘The first date we offered for Zac’s operation was January 19, which the family have chosen not to accept, and therefore we haven’t cancelled any surgery.’