Age: 9 Years Old
Diagnoses: Medulloblastoma (brain cancer)
Laith Zaied was born as a healthy baby boy on May 3rd of 2012 in Baltimore, MD. He is a sweet and caring boy who loves superheroes, Mario, and YouTube videos. His smile would light up the room!
After the winter break during 2nd grade, his teacher noticed he wasn’t as focused. In February of 2020, he started feeling sick in school and was sent home on a daily basis for vomiting. His pediatrician was puzzled as he had no fever and no viruses. Laith was rushed to the emergency room when he started showing signs of gait (not walking in a straight line).
On March 13th of 2020, a CT scan showed a 7 cm mass in the cerebellum area of his brain. Based on the initial MRI, the surgeon suspected a benign tumor. Laith underwent a 13 hour tumor resection surgery during which the cancer was discovered. He was diagnosed with medulloblastoma at the age of 7.
After surgery, Laith was very agitated and could barely talk or walk. He lost a lot of his strength and balance. During his 4 week pediatric ICU stay, he had 2 more procedures - one to place a shunt in his head to help drain fluids and the other to place a port for future chemo treatment. To make matters worse, everything was shut down due to Covid and only one parent could stay with him during these hard times. Laith stayed at the hospital for 3 more weeks after that. He was in inpatient rehab to try to regain some of his strength. He went home with a wheelchair, feeding tube and a slew of medical supplies.
From then, Laith was treated with radiation to the brain and spine daily for 6 weeks. He had to be sedated for every single session. He had to attend therapy and many clinic appointments during that time as well.
Once radiation was completed, Laith started chemo treatment. He underwent 9 cycles - some were 4 weeks and some were 6 weeks. Each cycle had either one or two overnights at the hospital. The last few cycles were hard on him and he was extremely neutropenic and fatigued. He still persevered and continued day rehab for physical, occupational and speech therapy even during chemo.
Laith also did vision therapy and attended school online as well. The school district assigned him a virtual teacher for an hour daily and he met with her to try and keep up with school. He would complain about his overwhelming schedule at times, but he always kept pushing forward. He had to do everything in isolation due to Covid. He thought he was the only child with cancer because he never saw any other children going through what he was going through.
Laith completed his treatment in June of 2021. His last MRI showed no signs of residual disease. He still has a long way to go. The aftermath of all the scar tissue on the brain is tremendous. Laith has ataxia (imbalance) on his left side. He struggles with walking and fine motor skills with his left hand. The damage to the cranial nerve resulted in him losing functionality in some of the facial muscles. He is unable to move his eyes back and forth and has issues with peripheral vision and depth perception. He is also unable to purse his lips which has caused multiple speech issues. He cannot pronounce the letters b, p and m. He can only drink with a straw and struggles with eating things like soup and ice cream with a spoon. Worst of all, he cannot smile.
Laith is a superhero and a fighter in every sense. He is an inspiration to all of us. How could someone so young be so brave? Laith’s journey has been a long and trying one. Along this journey, he has met many encouraging and caring angels who guided him and his family every step of the way. He is so very thankful and blessed for all the help and outpour of support and well wishes.
Laith would love to have an adaptive bike so he could feel like a normal kid again. He could ride it along with his cousins when they go bike riding and not feel left out. It would also be beneficial (and fun) therapy for him to increase his balance, endurance and coordination. Pedaling can improve his leg strength, and his vision would benefit from scanning and movement stimulation. Best of all, it would be used outdoors, and he wouldn’t have to wear a mask!