DA confirms Opp girl has tumor

Published 1:16 am Tuesday, February 28, 2017

District Attorney Walt Merrell on Monday confirmed an Opp Elementary School student does have a brain tumor.

Lilly Matt, 8, was diagnosed in 2016 with brain cancer.

Matt, who had battled medical challenges since birth, also had hydronephrosis.

She’s undergone 12 surgeries in her short life.

Merrell said that over the course of the last six weeks, he’s received several concerned inquiries about the legitimacy of Matt’s diagnosis.

“Ordinarily, I would not act on rumor and innuendo, which is all that I have heard,” he said. “However, it appears to me that the clamor of the rumor is hurting Lilly and her family emotionally. Because an 8-year-old child with a brain tumor has enough to worry about, I have decided to address the rumors and publish my findings.”

Merrell said that he had full cooperation with Matt’s family and has received documentation from Dr. Bang, The Nemours Children’s Clinic, Sacred Heart Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Alabama and UAB Department of Hematology/Oncology.

“All of those medical professionals confirm that Lilly is their patient and that she was diagnosed with hypothalamic pilomyxoid astrocytoma, which is a type of brain tumor,” Merrell said. “Children’s Hospital confirms that Lilly is undergoing chemotherapy until just a few weeks ago when they altered their treatment plan.”

Merrell said he has tried to address the rumors on an individual basis when he’s been contacted.

“I only now step up to the much broader podium of a public press release because naysayers have taken to the Internet to attack Lilly,” he said. “I find it unfortunate that someone hides behind the anonymity of the Internet in an effort to bully this child. That said, I am now standing in the gap. In partnership with the Opp Police Department, we are launching an investigation into whether or not any of these Internet posters have broken the law. Subpoenas have already been issued to determine their identity and to preserve the content of things that have been posted. A full review of those posts will be conducted and, if charges are appropriate, then so be it.”

Merrell said what Matt needs most is prayers and our support.

“She fights a battle that no 8-year-old should ever have a fight,” he said. “However, after spending some time with her, I have no doubt that she has the heart of a champion and, that as long as she has hope, she will preserve. I trust that this ends any speculation as to her diagnosis, and I hope that the community will rally around and bathe her in continued prayers and support.”