Sheffield family’s fears over heart unit closure

Sheffield baby Jacob Smith, who was born with a rare heart defect.

Sheffield baby Jacob Smith, who was born with a rare heart defect.

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A SHEFFIELD family fear losing access to vital care if plans to axe a Yorkshire heart unit go ahead.

Little Jacob Smith, who was diagnosed with a rare heart defect shortly after he was born, has spent his short life in and out of hospital.

The nine-month-old, from Arbourthorne, who has Down’s syndrome, has undergone open heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary three times.

But now the hospital’s children’s heart unit is earmarked for closure, with families having to travel to Liverpool or Newcastle for the specialist care currently offered.

Mum Tammy, aged 27, said: “He had his last operation in July and they’ve told us he won’t need any more surgery until he outgrows the pulmonary artery they replaced, but it’s frightening to think that if there is an emergency situation we’ll have to go to Newcastle.

“If we’d have had to go there to have him operated on first time around he might not be here.

“He can’t receive a heart transplant because of his Down’s Syndrome, even though it’s not connected to his heart condition. We’ve been told this surgery means he is not going to need one any more.

“We were devastated when we heard about Leeds.”

Following the news, members of the community rallied around to raise money towards the travelling costs of Jacob’s family - Tammy, dad Nicholas, sister Isobel, nine, and seven-year-old brother Dylan.

Berni Deehan, who has a son at Arbourthorne Primary School with Isobel and Dylan, decided to organise a fundraiser, which takes place at Arbourthorne Community Centre tomorrow, from noon.

Berni said: “This day is needed to raise funds for the family to cover travel and medical costs and to hopefully send them on holiday.”

The joint health overview and scrutiny panel, which representing councils from across the region, has stated its intent to refer the closure decision to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

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