Wife's desperate plea as 'traumatic' disease rips through Sydney family

Salwa Hanna, 25, has lost two relatives to the same cancerous tumour, including a 22-year-old cousin just last year.

A determined Sydney woman is refusing to give up without a fight after her 29-year-old husband was diagnosed with the same disease that claimed her cousin’s life just last year.

Salwa Hanna was up tending to her three children, aged 2, 4, and 5, at around 4am on January 19 when she returned to her bed to discover Johnny Hanna suffering a “pretty traumatic” seizure.

The 25-year-old mum, who has epileptic relatives, said the episode was like nothing she had ever seen in her life, adding she’d had a gut instinct she needed to get up.

Sydney mum Salwa Hanna and her husband Johnny with their three kids.
Salwa Hanna, from Sydney, was up tending to her three children around 4am on January 19 when she discovered her husband suffering a severe seizure. Source: Supplied

“I honestly thought I’d lost my husband,” she told Yahoo News Australia on Thursday. “He stopped breathing and everything. I don’t know what would have happened if I had been asleep.”

Dad wakes with no memory

When he woke in a western Sydney hospital almost two hours later, Johnny had absolutely no memory of who he or his family were or where he was. The dad of three, who moved to Australia from Lebanon in 2017 after the pair married, didn’t even respond when Ms Hanna spoke in his native Arabic.

“He had no idea who anyone was,” she said. “It was absolutely horrible.”

Given the dramatic scene she had witnessed, the mum said she was stunned when the hospital said they were going to discharge Johnny, chalking the incident up to a one-off incident.

However they returned 40 minutes later and took him for a CT scan to “double check”. “Within 10 minutes we had 10 doctors next to us — from there on it was all downhill,” Ms Hanna told Yahoo.

Salwa Hanna and Johnny Hanna smiling for the camera.
Johnny moved to Australia in 2017 after the couple married in Lebanon. They have three young children. Source: Supplied

'No symptoms whatsoever'

Despite suffering from “no symptoms whatsoever”, numerous scans, neurology appointments and a biopsy revealed Johnny had what they deemed an inoperable and incurable brain tumour, specifically a mid-grade glioma.

The tumour, which measures six by six centimetres, is located near the brain stem and has spread throughout his healthy brain tissue, Ms Hanna said. “He was totally healthy before,” she said. “He literally went to sleep and woke up in the middle of the night screaming.”

The biopsy appears to have triggered Johnny’s symptoms, leaving him in unbearable pain and completely dependent on pain killers that he is quickly becoming immune to.

The 25-year-old said doctors told her radiation and chemotherapy could slow the growth, but that in their experience, they all escalate to high-grade, becoming fatal.

Johnny left with his son and right with his cousin John, who is helping raise money to send him to the US. Source: Supplied
Johnny, left with his son, and right with his cousin John, who is helping raise money to send him to the US. Source: Supplied

Wife's vow after cousins die from same tumour

Ms Hanna has since vowed she is “not ready to just give up”, revealing brain tumours have plagued her family, leading to the deaths of a 38-year-old female cousin and 22-year-old male cousin, who died last August.

Another relative in her 40s is currently battling the disease. “We’re still grieving our cousin, I shouldn’t have to grieve my husband as well,” the emotional wife said. “I’m willing to try anything.”

Through her own research, Ms Hanna has been in touch with a neurologist in Houston, Texas, who has agreed to examine Johnny and create a treatment plan. The 29-year-old dad’s cousin John Nakhoul has since created a GoFundMe to help the family raise the money to send him overseas.

Ms Hanna said she is working with her husband’s physicians in Australia to see if and how they could transport him safely.

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