Vital surgery for Alanna (13) cancelled at last minute
Published 05/12/2015 | 02:30
The family of a young girl with Down syndrome, who has severe curvature of the spine, said they are devastated after her life-changing spinal surgery in Temple St children's hospital in Dublin was cancelled at the last minute.
Alanna Conroy (13) from The Ballagh, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, is a "urgent priority" because of the severity of her condition.
But her mother Janet was told the day before the surgery was due to go ahead that it could not take place, due to lack of beds.
The hospital had to cancel 21 operations because of a surge in admissions of babies with respiratory illness.
"Alanna is top of the waiting list because her condition is so pressing. The curvature of her spine has escalated to 90 degrees. She suffers pain and her rib cage is affected (and) so impacts on her heart and lungs. She cannot walk very far," her mother said.
Alanna's surgeon, Prof Damien McCormack, told the Irish Independent: "I am very saddened that urgent elective surgical patients, and especially children with pain and deformity, are allowed to suffer in this way. What will it take for society to realise that the public health service is dying on the vine?
"If the intention is to privatise the health system, as (it) seems, the minister should simply say so."
Her mother revealed: "We were just about to leave for Dublin when we got the call. We were told there was no intensive care bed available.
"The bed is there but there are not enough nurses to staff it.
"Alanna will need blood transfusions. The operation involves major surgery," said mother-of-three Janet.
"They had to book a special spinal monitoring team from Belfast. The cost is running into thousands of euro."
Alanna, who has to have a special chair and desk at school because of her condition, is under the care of Prof McCormack, who tried to get her operation carried out in Cappagh Hospital in Dublin in September.
"We went up to Dublin and had all the pre-op assessments carried out.
"It's an adult hospital but the anaesthetic staff decided it would be too risky and she would be better off in the children's hospital."
Because of Alanna's Down syndrome, her mother had to take special care to prepare her for the surgery.
"She was nervous but excited," her mother said. "She knew she would be better after it and be able to do all the things she cannot do now, like walking up the stairs and skipping.
"She would not have any pain. A child with Down syndrome is very trusting and believes everything you say.
"Prof McCormack told me how disappointed he is and said he will operate on her over Christmas if needs be."
A spokeswoman for the hospital said it had to make the decision on Thursday to postpone 18 day cases and three elective surgical in-patient cases.
"It was taken as a result of the increased number of winter-related admissions, especially babies under one year, with respiratory illnesses such as RSV, who have been admitted through the emergency department. They need very careful monitoring."
RSV is a seasonal virus which is the leading cause of respiratory illness in children and responsible for 50pc of pneumonia cases in infants and 50pc to 90pc of bronchiolitis cases in infants.
It is highly contagious. Temple Street is currently caring for 40 in-patients with respiratory related illnesses and 26 of these patients have RSV.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said: "Temple Street recognises the significant distress that any postponement of surgery will cause to a parent and child. But it is endeavouring to re-schedule these surgeries as soon as possible."
Surgeries were also cancelled the previous week.