For Harry’s sake: Mum protests against closure of unit that saved baby’s life

Oh baby: Harry Carter and his mum Hayley.
Oh baby: Harry Carter and his mum Hayley.
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a FIRST-time mum whose baby son collapsed from an undiagnosed heart condition when he was just nine days old has called for the surgical unit which saved his life to be kept open.

Hayley and David Carter’s son Harry was rushed to the Leeds General Infirmary Children’s Heart Surgery Unit after he began struggling to breathe and turned floppy at his Norton Lees home.

A specialist ambulance took him from Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where staff had spent six hours stabilising him for the one-hour journey.

Now the Leeds unit, the only in Yorkshire, is threatened with closure in the government review of children’s heart surgery services.

If it is shut, South Yorkshire families would be forced to take their children to Newcastle or Liverpool for surgery.

Hayley, of Norton Lees, Sheffield, believes Harry would not have survived that journey.

The 32-year-old said: “In Sheffield we only had the provisional diagnosis of what was wrong - they said we would have to get to Leeds to get it confirmed and then they would be able to carry out the emergency surgery he needed. That’s why it was so important that it was close by and he could get the specialist treatment he needed so quickly.

“If he’d had to go to Newcastle, he probably wouldn’t have survived the journey.”

Harry underwent emergency surgery to remove a blockage in his aorta and spent two weeks in intensive care repairing the damage caused to his tiny body as a result of his blood supply being cut off.

Hayley, a communications manager, said: “We left for the hospital that day in a complete mad panic and didn’t return home again for two weeks.

“But because we were only in Leeds it meant it was easier for people to drop by with things and also to see us and offer support. That wouldn’t have been possible if they’d had to travel to Liverpool or Newcastle or Birmingham.”

She said staff at the unit were absolutely fantastic and the on-site midwifery services were a huge help in keeping her well, as she had only given birth nine days before.

Today, at nine months, Harry is thriving. He will need another operation, but there appears to be no lasting damage from the frightening events.

“He should not have survived,” Hayley said, “but thanks to the Leeds unit and the staff there he did. He will always be a heart patient and it would be so nice if his check-ups and any further surgery could take place in Leeds.”

A petition calling on the government to keep the unit open has more than 100,000 signatures. The campaign has the backing of Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis.

He said: “It would be a dreadful loss to have this unit close.”

n Visit www.chsf.org.uk to sign the petition online. A public meeting opposing the move will be at the Royal Armouries in Leeds on May 10, with people across South Yorkshire urged to attend.