LITTLE bruiser Finlay Askwith runs around with such energy that his mum had almost forgotten his brush with death.
But Kerry Askwith said news that the Children’s Heart Surgery Unit at Yorkshire Heart Centre in Leeds was under threat brought the unspeakable terror of four years ago flooding back.
Finlay was just two weeks old and apparently perfectly healthy when he suddenly stopped breathing and turned purple.
He was rushed by ambulance to Chesterfield Hospital from Kerry and husband Chris’s Eckington home.
But with no diagnosis available he was swiftly transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital and into intensive care.
Medics diagnosed several holes in the heart and a narrowing in the aorta and - to Kerry’s horror - they suggested having him christened.
Leeds heart centre was contacted and staff were due to come and fetch him but Kerry said doctors decided they couldn’t wait and sent him in an ambulance.
Shortly after arrival he underwent life-saving surgery
Kerry, aged 31, of Ash Crescent, Eckington, said: “It’s easy to forget it all because he’s got so much energy, but this week it all came back - and I wouldn’t want it to happen to anyone.
“We were unloading supermarket shopping when Chris shouted that Finlay had gone purple, he’d stopped breathing and would occasionally gasp.
“When they asked if I wanted him christened I said no, because it would be like admitting he was going to die.
“But even after he came home from hospital we couldn’t believe he was all right and Chris and I spent two weeks taking it in turns to watch him sleep - until we were too exhausted!
“If Leeds Children’s heart surgery unit closes, the next nearest would be in Newcastle. In those circumstances I genuinely believe Finlay wouldn’t have made it.
“Leeds already serves a huge area, it would be madness to close it. The staff there were amazing they just gave us so much support.”
Two years later Finlay, described by his family as a ‘little bruiser’, had open-heart surgery to repair holes in his heart and today he is completely fine.
Now Kerry is urging people to sign a petition, already signed by 23,000, to keep the unit open.
The unit is at risk as a result of the NHS’s ‘Safe & Sustainable’ review of children’s heart surgery provision.
A spokesman for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund said: “If the unit were to close, hundreds of children who require life-saving surgery each year would have to travel long distances - possibly hundreds of miles - to another facility. This could put those children’s lives in even greater jeopardy.
“It would also cause severe distress for the patients and their families, and would see the end of a great team.”
n Sign the petition at www.thepetitionsite.com/6/help-to-save-ward-10-childrens-cardiac-lgi/