Sheffield family join fight to save children’s unit

1Victoria Helliwell and partner Daniel Lloyd are raising money for the heart unit in Leeds which helped save their daughter's life. Isabella Grace, now six months-old, underwent a life-saving operation shortly after she was born
1Victoria Helliwell and partner Daniel Lloyd are raising money for the heart unit in Leeds which helped save their daughter's life. Isabella Grace, now six months-old, underwent a life-saving operation shortly after she was born
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THE parents of a baby girl from Sheffield saved from the brink of death by Yorkshire’s only specialist children’s heart unit have joined the battle to save it from closure.

Isabella Lloyd was taken to hospital in Sheffield after choking in October last year, shortly after she was born.

After two days fighting for life, she was transferred to Leeds Infirmary’s Children’s Heart Surgery Unit, which is under threat of closure.

A specialist team of medics there diagnosed Isabella with anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery, a rare heart defect.

She was so poorly her mother Victoria Helliwell, of Deepcar, was told to prepare for the worst.

But a skilled team of 25 staff at Leeds carried out a life-saving 14-hour operation on the baby girl.

Now Victoria, aged 28, and Isabella’s dad, Daniel Lloyd, are campaigning against the closure of the unit, which faces the axe under a review of paediatric congenital cardiac surgery services in England.

Its closure would see services transferred to Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool, meaning people in Sheffield could face a 140-mile trip to the nearest centre.

Victoria and Daniel believe having access to a specialist unit in Yorkshire could mean the difference between life and death for children like Isabella, now aged seven months.

Victoria said: “I had her christened, because we didn’t think she’d survive.

“The team at Leeds saved my daughter’s life. No words of appreciation can thank them for what they have done. They were fantastic.

“Having the unit in Leeds meant Isabella could be transferred quickly. She is still under the specialist team at Leeds, but they’ve told us any further surgery she needs might have to be carried out in Newcastle or Liverpool.”

London’s Royal Brompton Hospital, which has also had its children’s heart unit threatened with closure, challenged the way consultation was carried out by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts.

The Court of Appeal has now ruled the consultation was lawful, meaning the fate of all the threatened units - including the Leeds heart unit, will be decided in July.

Sharon Cheng, director of Leeds campaign group the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, said: “Maintaining the Leeds unit is the only way of ensuring a safe and sustainable settlement for the north of England given the issues we have previously put forward regarding patient travel assumptions and minimum operations expectations.

“We actively expect the Joint Committee is looking at configuration options which would preserve Leeds.”

n For more information on the fight to save heart surgery services in Yorkshire, log on to www.chsf.org.uk