Following a major public outcry, the parents of a 7 year-old boy whose vital heart surgery has been cancelled eight times are hopeful that it will finally go ahead tomorrow (Wednesday, 15th).
Nóirín Kinsella from Newtown Road took to social media to write an open letter to Minister for Health Simon Harris after her son Tommy received the devastating news that his surgery would not be going ahead, for the eighth time, despite having already gone through pre-op preparations.
'It's been phenomenal,' Nóirín said of the support the family has received. 'Everyone is really backing us. Having said that, we still haven't heard anything from those who can do anything about it in the HSE. We've been contacted by Crumlin alright, but they are in constant contact anyway. Tommy's surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, but we've been here before.'
Tommy was born with congenital heart defect and had his first complex open heart surgery at just 11 months old. Now aged 7, Tommy has been scheduled to have a vital mitral valve repair/replacement procedure since November and on each occasion it's been postponed.
While most families were relaxing and enjoying Christmas, Tommy's parents Nóirín and Gary had to rush him to Wexford General Hospital on three separate occasions over the festive period with low oxygen levels and blood pressure. With Tommy's immune system being severely compromised, his parents were petrified that he would pick up an infection, with the Wexford hospital coming under major pressure with a flu outbreak in recent weeks.
In her open letter, Nóirín said that the cancellations had all been due to 'bed shortages at the hospital, emergencies and the general under-staffing of cardiothoracic surgical teams'.
'Do I need to wait until my son is rushed into hospital in a life threatening emergency for him to be treated?' she asked.
While Tommy is described as a 'happy boy who lights up every room he walks into', he was devastated to learn that his surgery was cancelled again.
A heartbreaking photo showed his father consoling him as he asked:
'Why can I not go back to school to see my friends? Why can't I go playing hurling and football? Mammy please let me have my surgery so I can go play.'
Nóirín called for Minister Harris' intervention saying:
'The nursing and medical staff at Crumlin Children's Hospital are wonderful, caring and highly skilled people who really are working very hard under extreme pressure. They need your support and your help, as do we.'
Nóirín's heartfelt post went viral and was shared over 38,000 times online. In the past week the family have appeared on RTÉ News, Ireland AM and their story has been told countless times in the national media.
While Tommy was devastated that his procedure didn't go ahead on the last occasion, he is enjoying his new found fame, although he is extremely keen to get back to school in John's Road and his friends. As is his sister Katelyn (12) who is also out of school to avoid bringing the flu virus or any infection into the house.
'He's delighted with himself,' laughed Nórín. 'At the same time though, he can't wait to get back to school. I was talking to some of his friends' parents and they were talking about having to drag their kids out of bed to get them back to school. I'm the opposite and I have my child sitting on my knee crying because he can't go.'
Given the massive public outcry over their situation, the Kinsella family are hopeful that young Tommy will get his surgery this week. However, Nóirín says that their situation only serves to highlight a broken system.
'I think it's shown that there's a lot of people in this situation,' she said.
'If you look through the thousands of comments that came in, there's a lot of people in the same situation. There are people, from the elderly down to children, who've had their "elective" surgeries cancelled three and four times.'