Girl, 14, was ‘fainting and slurring’ prior to fatal brain tumour diagnosis

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A teenager experienced fainting and difficulty speaking prior to a devastating brain tumour diagnosis.

Ellie Riccio, 14, started showing symptoms like slurred speech and falling over repeatedly.

After fainting during a drama lesson her mum Kim rushed her to hospital where scans revealed a deadly mass on Ellie’s brain, known as a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.

Kim, 45, said: “The consultant referred to it as a ‘heart sink’ tumour because that’s what their heart does every time they diagnose it, knowing it can’t be fixed.

“The tumour had grown, wrapped around her brain stem which limited her treatment options.”

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Doctors gave Ellie 10 months to live and she moved to London with her family to complete three weeks of radiotherapy treatment.

“I was told that children with this type of tumour often have a ‘honeymoon period’ with treatment and I could have at least 10 months with Ellie,” Kim recalled.

“We celebrated New Year in London and watched the fireworks from the top floor of the hospital.

“I observed the joy in her face as she watched the spectacle in the sky for the first time. It was bittersweet as I knew it would be her last.”

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Despite her ordeal, Kim says Ellie kept her “cool, thoughtfulness and kindness” throughout.

She said: “Even on extremely high dose steroids the ‘roid rage’ didn’t kick in and she kept her cool almost all of the time and stayed the kind and thoughtful girl.

“We managed a family holiday to Cornwall which Ellie loved.”

Tragically Ellie died just six months after her diagnosis in June 2022 at the Shooting Stars Hospice in Guildford.

“She very quickly lost her battle against the tumour, and needed 24-hour care as she had lost all mobility,” Kim said.

“My parents moved in with me to help care for her, we did this for five weeks. It was like having a baby again.”

Now Kim is marking what would have been Ellie’s 16th birthday with a fundraising challenge to help find a cure for the disease.

She is taking on the Brain Tumour Research 100 a Day Your Way challenge – doing 100 reps of any exercise a day for all of November.

She added: “Ellie inspired a lot of people in her short life.

“Staff who cared for her, friends and family. I’m doing this challenge for her and to keep her spirit alive in the hope that other families don’t have to experience the heartbreak that I have.”

To donate to Kim’s fundraiser, visit

According to the NHS, common signs of a brain tumour include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Persistently feeling sick (nausea), being sick (vomiting) and drowsiness
  • Mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality
  • Progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • Vision or speech problems.

If you experience any signs you should speak to your GP.

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