AGHAGALLON mum Mary Gowdy has been overwhelmed by the response to her campaign to save cardiac paediatric services at the Royal after it was highlighted in the ‘Mail’.
Mrs Gowdy, whose son Nathan received life-saving treatment at the unit soon after he was born, said the campaign has received an unprecedented boost following last week’s ‘Mail’ article.
She revealed she had been inundated with people offering support to the campaign.
Also SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly has said local people badly affected by the closure of the Belfast-based cardiac service at the Royal face an uncertain time awaiting the verdict on its future.
Ms Kelly said: “Mary Gowdy is one of those people who know all too well the life-saving service she and her family received in Belfast. Ms Gowdy’s son, Nathan, received care at the Royal.”
Ms Kelly was speaking after the Health Minister, Edwin Poots, put to consultation proposals for the future of the service.
She said: “The Gowdy family have been personal friends and neighbours for a long time. And as such I’m well aware of the stress that has been caused and can only imagine if had they had to travel to Birmingham or elsewhere in England for this vital service, how they would have coped and, quite simply, how they would have survived.
“Indeed, Nathan’s mum has stated that she doesn’t think that he would have survived in his formative weeks, were it not for the presence of a regional service in Belfast.
“While we welcome and wait for the outcome of the consultation, which is important, and the fact that the minister has cited that he will look at an all-Ireland dimension, it’s also important to keep the pressure on if devolution is to mean anything to the very real issues that are affecting people.”
Campaigner Mary Gowdy fears the closure of the unit could mean other children who need emergency heart surgery could be at risk if they are forced to travel hundreds of miles for treatment.
Little Nathan was born in April 2005 and, at just a week old, he was rushed from Craigavon Hospital for a life-saving emergency operation at the Children’s Cardiology Unit.
“This undoubtedly saved his life,” said Mary.
The Health Minister has revealed that he has been discussing the provision of child heart surgery on an all-Ireland basis with his Dublin counterpart, James Reilly.
More than 124,000 people have signed a facebook petition calling for the retention of the unit.
Mr Poots told the assembly he could not ignore the views of eminent health professionals who had concluded the service was not sustainable and he believes a cross-border network for child heart surgery would be advantageous for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The consultation period runs until December.