by Gemma Handy
Brave toddler Micah Kitt always found the energy to wave a hello to the nurses caring for him even as his health deteriorated, grieving medics told Observer yesterday.
Head of the hospital’s paediatric unit Dr Shivon Belle-Jarvis said the two-year-old who “fought to the end” against cancer would be remembered for his “playful, smiling” face.
On Tuesday, the little boy who stole the hearts of the nation lost his battle against neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that forms in the nerve tissue, which he was diagnosed with when he was just three months old.
The child underwent chemotherapy in Jamaica before being flown to Cuba for additional treatment in 2019 and his family were hopeful he would make a recovery.
However, a routine check-up last November shattered their hopes when it was revealed that the cancer had returned.
Yesterday, Dr Belle-Jarvis paid tribute to the tot who she said had become “family” to Mount St John’s Medical Centre’s paediatric team.
“It’s a very difficult time for us all because we’ve been with Micah since he was four months old and he is family to us,” she said.
“In November, our greatest fears were actualised when we recognised that Micah’s cancer was back.”
His mother Romancia Kitt told Observer last month that Micah was in need of treatment overseas – along with a special drug not available locally – but the Covid pandemic was posing challenges.
With guidance from local and regional specialists, the hospital was able to start chemotherapy for him.
But tragically time was running out.
“Doors were opened and he was accepted to go overseas but unfortunately by that time he was not fit to travel,” Dr Belle-Jarvis said.
The drug – Topotecan – was also sourced but by the time it arrived Micah was not strong enough for his little body to receive it.
“It was very unfortunate but we did try our best,” the paediatrician said. “Micah fought a good fight and we are just sorry we couldn’t do even more than we did to help him.”
She explained that it was “very difficult to say” what the outcome might have been had it not been for the pandemic.
“With cancer, especially in children, when you have recurrence, the outcome more often than not is very poor.
“The challenge is when you have a very aggressive type; with recurrences we are looking at less than a five percent success rate.
“We knew we were fighting a very difficult battle the second time around but I think we were all just hopeful for a good outcome, but unfortunately that was not the case.”
Hospital staff will be offered grief counselling, Dr Belle-Jarvis said.
Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer affecting infants and is usually seen in children under five.
It happens when immature nerve cells grow out of control and symptoms typically include fatigue, decreased appetite and a lump in the chest, neck or belly. Its exact cause is unknown.
“When he came back into hospital initially, he was still joyful, playful, smiling Micah – and we were so happy to see his face looking so joyful despite the pain experienced,” Dr Belle-Jarvis continued.
“As things progressed, he gradually became more weak and less able to play, but irrespective of that, when you went into his room he would put up his hand and say hi and bye.”
Micah’s medical team stayed with the Kitt family at the hospital on Tuesday to help offer comfort after his passing.
“It’s difficult because he really, really fought to the end. There is a dark cloud over all over us,” the doctor said.
The sad news was announced on the Ministry of Health’s Facebook page yesterday, accompanied by the words, ‘may your soul rest in peace, sweet one’.
Micah’s mother was not able to speak yesterday when contacted by Observer but Dr Belle-Jarvis said she was “hanging on”.
“She’s also been a trooper; she’s been with him night and day,” she said.
The hospital worked around Covid-related visitation restrictions so Micah’s loved ones were able to spend time with him.
Additional solace came in the form of a “day pass” from hospital which meant the child could spend some days at home before returning to the wing in the evening.
Dr Belle-Jarvis added, “That for us was the highlight of this most difficult time.”