Meet the young fighter who is now fighting on behalf of those children without a voice.
Eoin Taylor has battled serious cardiac problems all his life. Now he is battling to ensure Paediatric Cardiac Surgery and services remain at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. The relocation of the services to England has been under discussion due, in part, to falling numbers of operations being carried out there.
Eoin began a Facebook campaign two weeks ago which now has in excess of 14, 000 members. Entitled ‘Petition to keep Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at The Royal Victoria Hospital, (RVH) Belfast’, it has seen thousands of messages of support sent to Eoin.
Now 15 and living at Knockalla Park, Eoin was born at Altnagelvin Hospital four days after his due date. He weighed a mere 5lbs, his skin was black due to circulation problems and he was given only minutes to live. Specialists at RVH agreed to consult and he was airlifted, without his mother, to the RVH.
He was diagnosed with Charge Syndrome. It is thought less than 75 people in the UK and Ireland have had this diagnosis. He was also later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.
“Effectively his heart is in the right side of his chest, not the left.” His mother Maria explained. “Basically it is so rare an outcome can not be predicted, it is more a collection of symptoms than one. It has meant he has had to fight all his life.
“We’ve never known just what was coming next. This is the latest fight of his but he is not fighting for himself this time. He knows the benefits of the RVH better than anyone. He wants others to have the same chances he has been given, if not better.”
As he was only given a few hours to live, those first days and weeks were “a nightmare senario”, according to his mother. “But imagine if we had to take him to England then instead of Belfast? Not only is there a chance he may not have made it but, if he had, he would have been there alone.
“I felt alone in Belfast with my family two hours away, I dread to think how I would have felt had I been in England.
“We stayed in Belfast and the staff at the Royal were brilliant but it put a strain on the family. Eoin’s older brother Lee was four then so he had to stay with my mother. I couldn’t work as I had to be in Belfast and so I lost the family home as I could not keep up the payments. If it wasn’t for the Heartbeat NI foundation putting me up in a flat I don’t know what I’d have done. I cannot imagine what it would be like for someone sent to England. That could be so difficult for a parent, let alone a little new born baby with a heart defect.””
Eoin said: “The Clarke Clinic in Belfast have been amazing to me all my life.
“They have given me life that others thought I would never have. I don’t understand this move from Belfast to England. Is it really just about the greed of the money? There is no logic to it. These are babies’ lives they may be about to take away.
“They aren’t moving a service, they are messing around with the lives of children who can’t speak for themselves.
“Babies in Northern Ireland should be given the same chance at life as anywhere else. I can’t thank the staff, especially my surgeon Dr. Gladstone, enough.”
Dr. Gladstone agreed to operate on new born Eoin but only after he “filled out” for a few days.
Since being born Eoin has had to battle countless more health problems, which have resulted in countless scars.
The fact that surgeons don’t to “put him under” due to his weak heart means surgery is the last resort.
When knocked down by a scrambler outside his home three years ago, his medics placed him in traction for three months rather than operate. Eventually they agreed and his entire hip was rebuilt by surgeons.
“We’re on a good run since then,” he laughed. “I haven’t spent a night in hospital in three years, which is a personal best.”
Eoin’s bravery has been recognised by a plethora of sports stars.
His room is decorated with photographs and messages from Celtic stars past and present. There is a signed Iker Casillas’ Real Madrid top, signed David Hayes gloves, Martin Rogan posters, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal squad lists. “I used to support Arsenal and Celtic but I’m just a Celtic fan after they sold Van Persie,” admits the teenager, who admits to liking nothing more than “Facebook and computer games.”
His bravery has seen him awarded a gold Blue Peter badge and being invited to 10 Downing Street, where he met Prime Minister David Cameron. The PM was so impressed by Eoin he invited him to switch on the Christmas lights last year.
“We’ll be calling on anyone who can possibly help us fight the move to do so. Who wouldn’t want to help a baby in that position?” asked a determined Eoin.
To that end they have already met the SDLP, corresponded with Arlene Foster MLA and requested a private meeting with Health Minister Edwin Poots.
His mother said: “I’d like to think I can make a difference, someone should stand up for what is right in this situation. We can’t believe the support he has already whipped up.
“We thought we would be lucky to get to 400 hits on the petition but we are fast approaching 20, 000 so the support is there.”
Indeed few would bet against such a determined, battle- hardened young fighter.