Mum fights closure of unit that saved her son

Mary Dennison with her son Jack
Mary Dennison with her son Jack

A RASTRICK mum has set up a petition over plans to close a hospital unit which saved her son’s life.

Mary Dennison, of Foxcroft Drive, is one of several parents campaigning to save the children’s heart surgery centre at Leeds General Infirmary which is under threat.

The future of the unit - which is accessible to nearly 14 million people and the only one in Yorkshire, could be axed under new plans to cut the number of specialist centres across the UK from 11 to six.

If approved, it means children who require life-saving surgery across the region would have to travel either to Newcastle or Birmingham hospitals instead.

Mary’s son Jack who was born with tetralogy of fallot - a heart defect which causes low oxygen levels in the blood - was rushed to LGI for emergency heart surgery. But without this unit Mary who is a teacher at St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Brighouse, said it could have been a completely different outcome.

“He had surgery when he was just three years old after being rushed from Calderdale Royal Hospital to Leeds as an emergency admission,” she said. “He probably wouldn’t be here if we had had to travel to Newcastle.”

But Mary said moving the unit would also mean long journeys for pre-ops and reviews and relatives who wanted to visit loved ones. “It is all in place at Leeds. There doesn’t seem to be any logic in de-selecting it,” she said. “It is traumatic enough to go somewhere with a child with a heart condition for surgery without any other worries.

“At times like that you need support from family and friends and the patient needs people they know to see them because it has been proven to improve their condition quicker.”

An on-line petition has been set up and in just over a week more than 6,000 signatures have been added but because everyone doesn’t have access to a computer she is hoping to get signatures on a petition which she has set up herself.

“We wanted a paper petition as well so we can hit everybody that isn’t computer literate. St Joseph’s School is quite happy to promote it and put it on the website and I plan on taking it into church and other places for people who feel strongly about it because you never know when someone you know would require heart surgery,” she said. “I want to highlight the fact that it is an essential service and it should be kept within Yorkshire. I really cannot see why they want it to be elsewhere.”

Mary’s friends and family have already signed the online petition but further information on how people can object to the plans can be found at www.chsf.org.uk A petition is also available at the Brighouse Echo.