Friday 15 November 2019

Desperate mother begs Health Minister for life-changing spinal surgery for daughter (13)

Maria Stokes
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

​A desperate mother has called on Leo Varadkar to do something about the "absolutely ridiculous" waiting lists for life-changing spinal surgery for children with scoliosis.

Helen Stokes is fighting to raise awareness around the debilitating illness through an online petition since her 13-year-old daughter Maria's spinal condition has worsened.

The mother-of-four told that Maria was first diagnosed with curvature of the spine almost five years ago. The curvature now measures more than 90 degrees.

However, despite numerous visits to her local GP, referrals to Crumlin's Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, and a priority letter from a leading orthopaedic surgeon, Maria is yet to get the corrective surgery she needs.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Pat Kiely at the Crumlin hospital sent a letter to Maria's GP earlier this month confirming a "significant deformity".

"I am keen for her [Maria] to proceed with surgery as soon as is possible," Dr Kiely wrote in the letter.

Ms Stokes said that her daughter first went on the waiting list for surgery last July and has been through all her pre-op procedures.

"Then I spoke with the spinal nurse on Tuesday and was told that the surgery list for theatre has come out and Maria's name is not on it," she said.

"This is the last straw. All I want is for Maria to have a normal life, to be able to do things other young girls do at her age."

The Kildare-based mother said that her only daughter is constantly "in agony" and has refused to return to school since before Easter.

Maria Stokes

"Like any young girl, Maria is very aware of her body shape. She has refused to go back to school for fear of what her friends might say about her back," Ms Stokes told

"Her physical appearance is really affecting her as the condition gets worse but I'm more concerned about how all of this is affecting her mentally".

Ms Stokes, who also has three sons, two teenagers and a 4-year-old, has said that she has felt that her family are being "ignored" and feels "at her wit's end".

"Since 2008, when I was first completely ignorant of the illness, Maria's condition has just gotten worse and worse," she said.

"From a mild form of scoliosis and a slight bend in her back, my daughter is now crying with pain, refusing to go to school and finding it difficult to sleep at night."

A spokesperson for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin has said that there are currently 174 children on their spinal surgery list.

"There has been a commitment from the HSE in relation to additional funding for paediatric spinal surgery for 2015 and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin are in ongoing discussions with the Department of Health/HSE/ and Children’s hospital group in relation to the service," said the spokesperson.

Since setting up her Facebook petition only two days ago, Ms Stokes has managed to achieve over 1,000 signatures to help in her plight.

A spokesperson for the Health Minister has said that waiting times for scoliosis services "are unsatisfactory and must be addressed as a priority."

"Demand for scoliosis surgery has been increasing, with resulting pressure on capacity. But it has been identified as a priority by the Minister and he is keen to make as much progress as possible in this area in the short term."

Capital funding has also been allocated for a new theatre on site at Crumlin, according to the Department of Health, to expand theatre capacity further.

"As a further measure, available capacity is being identified in other hospitals and some children are being transferred for their surgery, where it is considered clinically appropriate for them," said the spokesperson.

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