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Taoiseach confronted in Dáil with plea from Adam Terry (10) over treatment for his crippling spine condition


Adam Terry

Adam Terry

Adam Terry

THE Taoiseach has intervened in the case of scoliosis sufferer Adam Terry, the ten-year-old boy whose plight in waiting for surgery has touched the heart of the nation.

Micheál Martin was confronted with a direct question from Adam on the floor of the Dáil, transmitted to him through Labour Party leader Alan Kelly.

He said: “Dear Taoiseach I'm from Cork like you. You know my story well by now. Will you please ensure I get the treatment and aftercare I so desperately need, so I can get back to school and play with my friends who I miss so much.

“I really, really need your help. Thanks, Adam.”

As a sympathetic silence fell among deputies of all parties in the chamber, the Taoiseach replied to Mr Kelly: “I hear Adam’s question, through you, loud and clear.”

Mr Martin revealed he had spoken to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, on Adam’s case. He added: “My office has been in touch with the HSE.”

The Taoiseach added: “I don't think it's good enough, quite frankly. I don't think any child should have to wait so long to get vital surgery of this kind. It is complex surgery but that is no excuse.

“In my view, it reflects a systemic failure. I’m not going to give any false dawns today. I just want to see the surgery happen.”

Mr Kelly said Adam and his mother Christine had to go on the Claire Byrne radio show to highlight his need for surgery to correct progressive curvature of the spine.

They had told “the horrific story of the pain Adam is in as he waits for the complex scoliosis surgery that he was promised for the last for years”.

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He said he and tens of thousands of others had found it very difficult and emotional to listen to Adam and Christine yesterday.

I took it upon myself to speak to Christine yesterday, even for half an hour. Her story was horrific. Adam story is far more important.

“I'm sure the majority of people in this country would give up any modest tax changes if Adam and 172 other children waiting for scoliosis procedures could have their surgery,” he added, saying he had spoken to Christine.

Adam suffers from Marfan syndrome and has spinal bifida with brittle bones and a related heart condition. “He's had 21 procedures in his 10 years, and some of them didn't go well,” Mr Kelly said.

“Adam has had to go through an awful lot, and is a full-time wheelchair user. Four years ago his surgery would have been complex, but now it's additionally more complex. It may go to the point where he would never be able to live without pain because of the delay,” he said.

His curvature of the spine was now so bad that some of his internal bones are now rubbing off one another, and he has to try and crack his back to get pain relief, Mr Kelly said.

His condition was upsetting his organs and potentially causing other medical issues, he added. “His stomach is squashed and he can't eat properly. He's down to 18 kgs. Remember he's 10.”

Mr Kelly said previous promises to tackle paediatric waiting lists for scoliosis surgery had gone off into “Never-Never Land”.

“Christine has had a very difficult conversation with Crumlin clinicians and they're looking at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. But our country’s children shouldn't have to go there,” he said.

Mr Kelly said Adam described his pain as almost paralysing and really hard to take. “He said, ‘No-one is coming to find me in the Lost and Found.’ He has suffered enough.”

Mr Martin said he didn't think Great Ormond Street should be the answer either.

Surgery in such cases “needs to happen in a timely manner, and it's our responsibility as Government to make sure of that”.

He added: “That's something that I'm committed to do as Taoiseach, and to ascertain why these situations continue to occur.”

All are familiar with stories around scoliosis for the last six to seven years, he said, adding that he was not going to read out a couple of pages of a prepared response on the issue.

“I do want to see Adam go back to school. I want to see him to mix with his friends. We're going to do whatever we have to do. And I know that his consultants want to help as well in this situation.”

“It was not a question of resources, the Taoiseach said. “The resources are there, but we need to make sure that elective surgery is ringfenced from anything that occurs on the trauma side in terms of our (operating) theatre capacity.”

Mr Kelly said individual cases could shine a light on a broader systemic problem.

“It's just not good enough, and I want it resolved, not just for Adam but for other children,” he said.

“It is a genuine scandal how many services which children rely upon have failed in recent years, and the situation is by some distance worse than it was before.”

The 172 children waiting for scoliosis treatment needed to be the priority of Government “above any small tax deductions or ‘fivers’ here or there, or anywhere”.

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