Sunday, November 05, 2006


EXCLUSIVE: Beckhams' fears over epileptic son Romeo

By Rav Singh

VICTORIA Beckham has confessed that her son Romeo is battling epilepsy, the News of the World can reveal.

Posh and Becks were "devastated" when specialists confirmed that their four-year-old middle child has the brain condition which causes violent fits.

Sufferers can die during an attack and many have to take medication for the rest of their lives.

Posh has revealed that she and David are now terrified flash photos will spark an epileptic fit that could kill him.

The world's most-photographed celebrity family are desperate to protect little Romeo from fans and paparazzi eager to get a snap.

The lad, who turned four just five weeks ago, has been warned to avoid flashing lights known to cause potentially-fatal seizures.

The frightened youngster reacted violently after being photographed at Heathrow last Saturday as he returned to Britain from Madrid with Posh and brothers Brooklyn, seven, and Cruz, one.

Initially he shielded his eyes against the flashes as his mother pushed him through the terminal building in his buggy and out to a waiting car.

He then started screaming in terror and lashing out with his legs as one photographer pressed his camera inside the car and started flashing.

Only then did horrified Posh, 32, reveal the truth about brave Romeo's dangerous condition.

She pulled her blond-headed son to her, shielded him from the lights and yelled: "Leave him alone.

"He's got epilepsy. All that flashing will start an epileptic fit. You can't do that!"

Kevin Smith — owner of Splash news, the agency that took the shot —said: "No picture is worth putting a child's life in danger.

"Now that we know Romeo has epilepsy I will not be authorising any of my photographers to take flash pictures of him. I think this is absolutely the right thing to do and I hope other agencies follow suit."

And we at the News of the World are only printing the shocking picture — taken BEFORE the facts were known — to persuade fans and the world's press to act responsibly.

The frightening incident came soon after specialists told the couple that Romeo's condition was more serious than first feared and that he had epilepsy.

Romeo has endured a series of frightening fits and has been rushed to hospital four times in three years.

Intially it was thought his attacks were simply febrile convulsions, common in young children running a high temperature.

But when the fits continued with no clear explanation he was tested for epilepsy, which has now been confirmed.

A close friend of Posh and Real Madrid star Becks said: "They have told friends the situation. While it's heartbreaking, he is being brave.

"They are devastated — worried sick about Romeo. He is on medication to control the seizures but obviously things like flashing lights can trigger one at any time.

"They can only hope the medication limits the number of fits he suffers to a minimum and he can enjoy as normal a life as possible. Epilepsy affects a great number of people and many grow out of it. They are just praying Romeo gets better."

A friend of Victoria's said of the Heathrow drama: "Romeo was very distressed. He hates flashes going off because he knows what they can do to him.

"Normally he just shields his eyes but this was right in his face. There was nowhere for them to go.

"Victoria was really scared and tried to shield him. She was furious. That's why she yelled out — anything to make them stop and think about what they're doing to him."

Flash photography is one of the trigger factors for epileptic seizures. In extreme cases attacks can be fatal. News of the World doctor Hilary Jones said: "We do not know how seriously the condition affects Romeo but if he is having grand mals — which cause the sufferer to thrash about and bite their tongue — it can cause a fatality.

"It is extremely rare but the Beckhams will not want to expose him to that sort of risk. The paparazzi — and the fans — should take care when they're around Romeo."

Victoria has been seeking advice from celebrity pal Elton John, who also suffers from the condition. He is godfather to little Romeo and his older brother Brooklyn.

The pal added: "Elton has been a tower of strength for the Beckhams since they found out the news. He's been able to tell them how it affected him and how to cope."

Other famous sufferers of epilepsy include Julius Caesar, Vincent van Gogh, Sir Winston Churchill, Napoleon, actor Richard Burton and comic Rik Mayall.

Plucky Romeo was first rushed to Princess Alexandria Hospital in Harlow, Essex, in October 2003, aged just one, after suffering frightening convulsions.

He had a high temperature and his face had turned blue. He was kept in overnight for observation.

Just weeks before he had two stitches in his forehead after falling on an escalator in Madrid.

Then in July last year he was taken to hospital again after suffering similar convulsions.

In October Romeo was back in hospital twice in four days in Madrid after collapsing again.

Former England skipper David, 31, postponed plans to fly off for a World Cup qualifier against Austria to be at his son's bedside.

Romeo was first taken to the La Paz hospital for two hours before his parents were allowed to take him home.

But four days later the Beckhams rushed him to the Ruber International Hospital in Madrid where he was detained for four days for extensive tests.

- Epilepsy affects one in every 130 people in the UK.

- Sufferers can experience petit mals, which are slight blackouts, to grand mals, where their bodies convulse and they can lose consciousness for several minutes.

- It is treatable with anti-convulsant drugs and most sufferers can lead a normal life. But in more extreme cases their lives can be ruined by near-constant seizures.

- In six out of ten sufferers, epilepsy can be explained by brain tumours or injuries to the head. But for the rest there is no easy explanation and the cause remains a mystery.

The Beckhams have had their share of medical scares with their sons. Brooklyn had a hernia operation at just six weeks old.

Last night a spokesman for the Beckhams said: "We can't comment on any medical matters."

But a friend of the couple added: "It's been a harrowing period for Victoria and David. They are desperately worried about their son."

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