Meet the little boy whose rare 'mirror' hands have saved his life.
Ethan Burn has a rare condition which causes his hand movements to exactly mirror each other.
When he picks objects up in one hand, the other hand copies the same movement.
Ethan can write simultaneously holding pens in both his right and left hand.
It was during an MRI scan to investigate Ethan’s rare condition that doctors discovered he had a cancerous tumour growing behind his left eye.
It was thanks to the discovery that doctors have been able to treat a further hundred life-threatening tumours that have since grown behind his eye - and successfully save his life.
His mother Orme, 32, said: ‘Ethan has been through so much treatment to save him, but thankfully the doctors have finally managed to successfully treat all the tumours.
‘It is so lucky that he was born with mirror hands, as if it hadn’t been for the scan that doctors were doing to try and establish the cause, then his tumour may not have been found until it was too late.
‘Ethan’s mirror hands have ended up saving his life.’
His rare condition was first noticed by his mother when he was four months old, but it wasn’t diagnosed until Ethan was two.
Mrs Burn, who lives with husband Robert, 45, an IT manager, in Carshalton, Surrey, said: ‘I noticed that when I placed a ball in Ethan’s hand, then his other hand would mimic the movement and open too.
‘Then he started holding a rattle in one hand, and he would copy it with his other hand. I took him to see the GP but they didn’t think there was anything wrong with him.’
Then when Ethan started to feed himself at the age of one, he couldn’t manage the task. He couldn’t hold the bowl with one hand and the spoon in the other.
Mrs Burn, a nursery nurse, said: ‘He would be holding the bowl, but then when the spoon was placed in his other hand and he tried to lift it to his mouth, his other hand would lift too so he would pour out the contents of the bowl.
‘It was so frustrating for him. He would tip yoghurts and bowls of baby food all over himself because his hands wouldn’t move independently.
‘I worked as a nursery nurse, so I knew that compared to other children, Ethan’s hand movements weren’t normal.’
When Ethan was two years old, Mrs Burn took him to see a new GP at their surgery, who investigated the problem.
Mrs Burn said: ‘It was such a relief that someone was taking the problem seriously. The GP found his case interested and referred him to the hospital for investigations.’
Ethan was referred to a paediatrician at Epsom Hospital in Surrey, and then to a neurologist. He was then sent for an MRI scan in December 2010.
It was after the scan that the doctors delivered some devastating news to the couple. It had revealed that Ethan had a shadow on his left eye. Doctors suspected it was rare cancerous tumour growing behind his eye.
Mrs Burn said: ‘It was nice to have some answers for his mirror hands condition, but it was devastating to be told that he had suspected eye cancer.
‘There hadn’t been any other signs, he hadn’t developed a squint in that eye. It was such a terrible shock. To be told that our two year old son had to fight cancer was devastating.’
Tests two weeks later confirmed that Ethan had retinoblastoma, a rare childhood eye cancer. He started chemotherapy immediately to try and beat the disease. As the treatment progressed, doctors at the Royal London Hospital and Great Ormond Street found more and more ‘seedling’ tumours that were starting to grow.
In total, they have managed to successfully treat more than a hundred tumours behind his left eye.
Mrs Burn said: ‘Ethan had a massive battle through his chemotherapy treatment. He had to have several blood transfusions. He was sick and lost his hair too, but he fought it so hard. We are so proud of him.’
Ethan had undergone chemotherapy which finished in April last year, and has also had laser therapy, cryotherapy to freeze the tumours, and a radioactive plaque attached directly to his eye.
Mrs Burn said: ‘He has had so much treatment, but he has taken it all in his stride. I felt so helpless when he was lying there in hospital, but he has been such an inspiration.’
Ethan has lost the sight in his left eye, but he still manages to ride his bike, play cricket and tennis. He started nursery in October. If any more tumours are discovered, then it is likely that Ethan will lose his eye.
Mrs Burn added: ‘He may have lost some of his sight, but he doesn’t let it stop him. He is clear at the moment and we are just hoping that no more tumours will start to grow.
‘He can still do everything he always used to - and he’s like a human etchasketch - as he can still write with both his hands at the same time. It’s amazing to see.
‘And every time I look at his mirror hands, I know that they have ended up saving his life.’