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Tuesday, 24 November 2020

CHARITY TODAY AWARDS

Brain tumour dad thanks Tube staff for saving his life

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A commuter has thanked quick-thinking staff on the Northern line who ‘saved his life’ when he collapsed with a seizure.

Sam Suriakumar was looked after by a number of TfL staff members when he became unwell as he travelled home to Worcester Park in Surrey. They helped him off the train at Balham and cleared an area in a mess room for him to rest and recover before an ambulance arrived. The 33-year-old recruitment consultant and part-time musician was taken to St George’s Hospital where he was told he had a brain tumour.

Shocked to hear of his diagnosis, the Northern line team has now gone one step further to help their passenger – they are taking part in Brain Tumour Research’s Wear A Hat Day with Flowers on Friday 19th June. The charity works to raise awareness of the disease which kills more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer. It also funds research to find better treatments and, ultimately a cure. The day will see people donning their favourite flower-decorated hats and enjoying socially distanced get-togethers or connecting online to hold fundraising events.

Now in lockdown at home with wife Sindhu, a GP working in the NHS, and their daughters Avaana, five, and Arya, three, Sam hopes to meet his Tube rescuers once lockdown restrictions are eased.

He said:

“I suffered what I now know was a grand mal seizure as I returned home from work in early February. It hit me out of the blue and I will remain eternally grateful to the people who came to my rescue. They saved my life. To learn that they are now supporting Brain Tumour Research and taking part in Wear A Hat Day with Flowers is incredible and I am really moved by that.”

Northern line Trains Manager Alexander Garnett-Scherer said the team had been very touched by Sam’s story and was ‘honoured’ to support the charity.

Customer Service Assistant James Kearney, who was among those who came to the passenger’s aid, said:

“Sam seemed confused and withdrawn. He was reluctant for us to call an ambulance but our insistence that he needed emergency care was our most important intervention that day.”

Sam, whose tumour has been identified as a glioma, has just received scan results showing his tumour is stable and, for now, at least, he will not have to undergo surgery or other treatment.

A Sri Lankan Tamil, Sam says his diagnosis has brought him closer to his family and to God and it has helped him to identify the things in life which are most important to him. He hopes the coronavirus restrictions will help others to find a similar focus.

“When I first heard the word ‘brain tumour’ it felt like life had stopped and I was in a dark tunnel with no light. I couldn’t speak, hear or understand what was going on. To be honest, I am still trying to digest it and, as terrifying as things are, it will not defeat me. But now I feel as if the darkness was there because I had shut my eyes in an attempt to make things go away. When I was able to open my eyes, I saw so much more light and love that I wasn’t able to appreciate before.

“Life looks more beautiful already; I am now living my best life and suddenly menial things are just irrelevant. My fight has begun and I am ready, every second of every day. Make no mistake, with God by my side, I feel as if I have already won.

“We can’t thank people enough for showering us with so much love, support and prayers. The difference which can be made by showing kindness, giving people your time and telling them you care is enormous. I don’t want to lecture or preach but I do hope I can inspire people to love the moment and make it count because tomorrow is always a gift and not a guarantee whilst today is yours to own and control.”

Wear A Day with Flowers takes part at the end of British Flowers Week and is being launched by BBC TV’s Instant Gardener who lost his beloved sister Margot to a brain tumour at the age of 52.

To find out more about Wear A Hat Day with Flowers go to www.braintumourresearch.org

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure. The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.

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