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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Cumbrian dad speaks out as heart unit future is put in doubt again

The future of a specialist heart unit that treats children from across Cumbria is once again in the balance.

Jason Edgar photo
Jason Edgar with wife Claire and son Jorge

The centre, at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, was one of those under threat as part of plans to reduce the number of hospitals nationally carrying out children’s heart surgery.

But following a consultation, it was announced in July that the north east unit would continue to operate.

Instead three units – including the one in Leeds – were to lose specialist surgery.

But now, following major opposition from the other hospitals and the threat of legal action, new health secretary Jeremy Hunt has agreed to look again at the decision.

He has asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) to carry out a review of the ruling that signalled the closure of the units at Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in London.

Local campaigners now fear that it is overturned, the long-term future of the Newcastle unit will be back in doubt.

If the region were to lose out, poorly children from Cumbria would have to travel to Leeds or Liverpool for surgery.

The panel is expected to make a decision by the end of February next year.

One Cumbrian dad whose son owes his life to the Newcastle unit said it is vital that children’s heart surgery continues at the Freeman Hospital.

Jason Edgar’s two-year-old son Jorge had to be rushed across to the north east for emergency surgery when he was just four days old. A clot in his pulmonary artery had left him seriously ill and turning blue.

After being stabilised in Whitehaven he was transferred at high speed to Newcastle, where staff were able to save his life. His family say that if the unit and its specialist equipment were not so close Jorge – who is now a picture of health – would probably not be here today.

Mr Edgar, of Ennerdale in west Cumbria, said: “We feel very close to the Freeman. It played a massive part in him still being here. It was touch and go for Jorge – they saved my boy’s life.

“It wasn’t just getting him there but also the work that they carried out. He was put on a specialist ECMO machine. There are very few places in the country that have that available. If it wasn’t for that he wouldn’t have survived. it’s very important to us that it stays open.”

The family have since raised thousands of pounds for the unit as a way of saying thank you for his treatment.

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