THESE pictures show the very reason heart services for sick children need to remain in Belfast, a Banbridge couple has said.
Two-year-old Daniel Davis was photographed lying in a bed at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in February this year just a few hours after having major surgery to repair a hole in his heart.
His parents Andrew and Tracy said they were shocked and appalled when a review of heart services carried out in Northern Ireland found that they are no longer sustainable.
The local couple said they owed a lot to the hospital for saving Daniel’s life after he was found to have a congenital heart defect.
Following a five-hour operation Daniel was back to good health - but the traumatic experience is something the parents said they do not know if they could have gone through had they been required to travel to England.
“It was a very worrying time to say the least,” Andrew told the Leader. “The practical things like who would look after our older son Jack and who would mind the two dogs and so on - those are things we were lucky to have our family around us to help with.
“I’m not sure how it would work if you had to travel to England. Financially I imagine it would be very difficult too.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots said all options should be considered, including an all-Ireland service - but if that is not seen as suitable or sustainable children will have to travel to England.
As standards for the complex service are rising across the UK, Northern Ireland must prove that it can provide the surgical cover required, the review said.
While Daniel, who turned three in March this year, is now back to full health he is required to have six-monthly check-ups.
“We are concerned at how that will work out,” said Andrew. “At the minute it is handy to go down to Belfast with Daniel but the thought of the service being moved so far away would be a different story.
“It is difficult enough to go through something like that with your child without all the added stresses of travelling. I would fear for other parents who might have children who require serious surgery.
“Daniel is like a different child now, he is so full of energy and so happy.”
Andrew said, “This is a service that needs to be kept local for any children from Northern Ireland who might need it.”
He and Tracy paid tribute to the charity Heartbeat NI who they said helped their family through their ordeal,
“We got so much help from Heartbeat NI - staff there were always on the end of the phone if and when you needed them,” said Tracy.
“We were put in touch with other parents in the same situation and it gave us an idea of what was ahead of us.”