Family of nine-year-old boy who tragically died from rare condition donate his brain for medical research

Nine-year-old Max Ledger loved animals and a fundraising day for the RSPCA's Blackberry Farm is being held in his honour
Nine-year-old Max Ledger loved animals and a fundraising day for the RSPCA's Blackberry Farm is being held in his honour

The parents of a nine-year-old boy who died after a fall triggered bleeding on an undiagnosed cyst in his head have donated his brain samples for medical research in the hope of preventing future tragedies.

Keen sportsman Max Ledger, from Bishopstone, had probably had the cyst from birth but had not suffered any symptoms before the fall.

An inquest heard that Max had been taking part in cross country run at Stone Church of England School when he fell over, but it is not certain whether it was this or another incident which trigged the symptoms.

Max did not mention this fall to his parents until a few days later, when he started complaining of headaches and nausea.

GPs initially thought Max was suffering from migraines but when they persisted he was sent to hospital for a scan, which revealed the cyst and some bleeding.

Max underwent surgery to drain the cyst and initially appeared to be doing well but his condition deteriorated and he died just over a week later.

Wednesday’s inquest into Max’s death heard how he had been a normal healthy child until the fall.

His mother Angela Ledger said: “It wasn’t until he said he had a headache that he mentioned how he had fallen over running.

“He didn’t think anything of it and got up and carried on.”

Max’s GP initially put the headaches down to migraines as his father was known to suffer from the condition.

However, after repeat visits he was referred for a brain scan, which revealed the cyst and some bleeding.

Max. who lived with his family at Furlong Crescent, underwent surgery to drain the cyst at the John Radcliffe Hospital on January 28.

The inquest heard that despite initially appearing to recover well he deteriorated and died on February 6.

Dr Waney Squier, a consultant neuro-pathologist, explained that cysts were predisposed to bleeding and it could have been caused by trauma or something very minor.

She said: “It is perfectly consistent that it happened at the time of the fall but I couldn’t say definitely.”

After the initial operation there was a further build up of pressure in the same area that was unexpected.

The cause of death was given as cerebrovascular dysautoregulation with acute cerebal hypoxic-ischaemic injury and asymmetric trigeminal spinal nucleus necrosis.

Oxfordshire senior coroner Darren Salter recorded a narrative verdict into Max’s death.

He said the schoolboy already had a naturally occurring arachnoid cyst when he fell whilst on a cross-country run sustaining a head injury.

“He was more vulnerable to bleed because of the cyst,” said Mr Salter.

“He suffered headaches which were subjected to investigation and he subsequently underwent surgery on January 28, 2013 at the John Radcliffe Hospital. He initially did well and then deteriorated and died on February 6.”

Max’s parents, Andrew and Angela Ledger, have allowed medics to keep their son’s brain samples and use his reports in teaching and research.

Mr Ledger said: “We have been told that such samples are invaluable.”

He said Max was more ‘delicate’ than other people and that the research into his condition could help in cases where parents are wrongly accused of killing their children.

“We take that away that he is helping Dr Squier’s research and that will help children and also parents who are wrongly accused of child abuse.”

Mrs Ledger added: “Max would have wanted to help other people and if something good comes out of it that is important.”

Paying tribute to their only child his parents described him as sociable, independent and gifted.

“Max was interested in anything and everything.

“He played football, rugby, theatre club and went swimming. He attended every after school club in the area.

“He also loved animals. He went to Africa four times. He was nine going on 19.

“We have said that he packed so much into his nine years.

“The tragedy is that he had so much potential for the future.”

Max’s family are holding a fundraising day for the RSPCA’s Blackberry Farm in Quainton on Saturday, November 30 from 11am to 5pm, at Stone Village Hall in Oxford Road.

It will include tombola and raffle, gifts, refreshments and games.

His mother said: “Max’s birthday is on November 28 – he would have been 10 years old.

“As we cannot give Max a present on his birthday we will be trying to raise money for what we believe Max would choose as a worthy cause, helping animals which he loved.”