Life Health & Wellbeing

Monday 27 May 2019

'The surgeon said his ribs had basically started to crush his lungs' - Mother says scoliosis tot Harvey needs new home

Gillian Sherratt and fiance Stephen Morrison at home with son Harvey, who has scoliosis
Gillian Sherratt and fiance Stephen Morrison at home with son Harvey, who has scoliosis
Gillian Sherratt and fiance Stephen Morrison at home with son Harvey, who has scoliosis
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

The family of a three-year-old Dublin boy with severe scoliosis have been waiting two years for a suitable home despite his case being accepted as a medical priority.

Gillian Sherratt (27), who lives in Knocklyon, said her son Harvey's lung function is being affected by his scoliosis, and stopping it from deteriorating is "a life and death situation".

At the moment, the family are in a rental bungalow, but it is not suitable because it has not been adapted for Harvey's wheelchair.

He struggles to get around in it on the carpet and with finding space to turn around.

"We were placed on the housing list just before Harvey turned one, and then he was given medical priority," said Ms Sherratt.

If they were in a council-owned house, they could apply for an adaptation grant to make it suitable for Harvey, who was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

"Scoliosis is very common in children with spina bifida," Ms Sherratt said.

"His is quite severe. Around the time he was one, his orthopaedic surgeon said that for him, his ribs had basically started to crush his lungs."

Doctors have said Harvey will need a halo traction for a minimum of 12 months, perhaps even for years.

It involves a ring that surrounds the head attached by pins to the skull, a procedure used to reduce the degree of curvature of the spine.

It is the only suitable option for Harvey, according to experts.

In a letter to South Dublin County Council's housing department, a leading medic involved in Harvey's care in January 2017 advised that: "Given that Harvey's home is not wheelchair accessible, it is not an option to do halo traction at this time.

"In Harvey's case, this may impact further on his pulmonary function and his scoliosis may progress."

Despite Harvey's complex medical needs, the family are still waiting for suitable accommodation.

"The surgery would mean that he couldn't crouch down, and it would bring him into a straighter position," Ms Sherratt said.

She added that she has been dealing with the medical priority section in the housing department.

Ms Sherratt said that if the surgeon were to tell them Harvey needed the surgery immediately, they would not be able to take him home.

"There are steps up to the door. We have to lift him out of the wheelchair to get him in and out of the house," she said, adding that Harvey also has a lot of medical equipment that takes up space.

In the bungalow they are in, Harvey finds it hard to man- oeuvre around in his wheelchair with carpets because his right hand is unable to grip.

He ideally would need to live somewhere with hardwood floors and wheelchair adapted rooms.

"At home he's basically on the floor most of the time because he's so restricted in the chair. You want that wheelchair to give him independence."

Ms Sherratt and her fiance, Stephen Morrison, also have a daughter, Lyla, who was born in January with hypoplastic right heart syndrome.

She will soon undergo her first open heart surgery.

Independent TD Finian McGrath wrote to the council a year ago on behalf of the family.

"Given Harvey's current and near future requirements, the present house in which he lives is completely inappropriate," he said.

Ms Sherratt said: "It's just extremely frustrating, because I feel like we've come up against a brick wall."

A spokesperson for the council said: "It is the policy of South Dublin County Council to not comment on individual cases."

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