A Lurgan woman whose daughter has had a pacemaker fitted since the age of three weeks has told how important it is to have a children’s heart surgery close to home.
Last week it was revealed that international experts have recommended the children’s cardiac unit should move to Dublin.
Lynsey Steele believes if her baby daughter Leah needed a repeat of the ambulance dash from Craigavon to the cardiac unit, though this time to Dublin instead of Belfast, she’d have lost her.
Lynsey (30) said: “Whenever Leah was born she had a slow heart rate. It went back to being normal and they thought it was a false alarm so her dad was sent home. But then it dropped again and she had to be rushed on her own by ambulance to Belfast. Because I wasn’t allowed to leave Craigavon so soon after giving birth I didn’t get to the Clark Clinic to see her until 2am the next morning.
“They gave her medication for her heartblock and at three weeks they decided she needed a pacemaker.”
She continued: “When she had the pacemaker fitted we were told they’d be very surprised if she got five years out of it. There’s an appointment in January to check it. It will either be replaced next year or the year after.
“Although the appointments are planned you never know when you need to get to the hospital in an emergency. For example if Leah got an infection it would become an emergency.
“That’s why the heart surgery needs to stay in Belfast. Leah would never have made it if the ambulance was taking her to Dublin.”
Of Leah’s treatment in the Clark Clinic Lynsey said: “We’re regular visitors and Leah knows her way around the place. As parents there are facilities for us to stay over. I don’t know if the same is true in Dublin.
“I’m not saying being there is a nice experience, but to go whole way to Dublin would be even worse.
Of her daughter she said: “You wouldn’t know to look at her there’s anything wrong. She knows a wee bit about the pacemaker. I tried to explain to her how it worked but it upset her so I just told her it was magic and she was happy with that. She has two older sisters Lauren (14) and Kirstin (11) and they’re brilliant with her.”