joy as disabled bella gets hospital bed

Amanda Dougherty pictured with her daughter, Bella Collins. DER1014SL20 Photo: Stephen Latimer
Amanda Dougherty pictured with her daughter, Bella Collins. DER1014SL20 Photo: Stephen Latimer

A severely disabled toddler from Derry who had been denied life changing surgery because of a shortage of hospital beds, will travel to the Royal Victoria Hospital today and will undergo a vital tonsilectomy tomorrow.

Two-year-old Bella Collins from the Waterside has Spina Bifida as well a potentially fatal condition which cuts off her airways as she sleeps. She also suffers a number of other complex health problems which cannot be treated until she has her enlarged tonsils removed.

Her mother Amanda Dougherty was told during the week that her ill daughter’s theatre appointment in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, had been cancelled because there was no bed in the high dependency unit, putting on hold treatment options for all her other conditions.

Amanda hit out at the decision publicly and shared her story with the Derry Journal.

Following a public outcry, she was told by a nurse late on Thursday that a bed was now available for her courageous daughter.

“It was my birthday that day and that was a great present,” said Amanda.

“We are just so glad that we told our story and I have no doubt that doing that made an impact. Bella has had a difficult few nights over the last couple of days and that’s convinced us even more that it’s vital that she has this surgery now. She really needs it before anything else can be looked at.”

While she says she’s over the moon that her daughter is getting the surgery she needs, the local mother says more beds need to be made available for children who need them.

“Bella’s surgery was cancelled initially because there was no bed for her in the high dependancy unit after her theatre, but we know that while she has her bed now, there is some other child who doesn’t and that’s hard to think about. It shouldn’t be like that. We feel like we’re stopping another child from getting what they need and that just isn’t fair.

“There are 12 high dependancy unit beds available and for a regional hospital that just isn’t good enough.”

Amanda also highlighted the fact that parents wishing to stay overnight with their children in the high dependancy unit have very few options when it comes to sleeping arrangements.

“There are two rooms with a single bed in each but obviously that can only accomodate so many people. The other option for parents who want to stay overnight in the high dependancy ward is a pull out chair.”

Amanda says she’s realistic that very little might change in the wake of telling Bella’s story but that she’s glad that speaking out helped get her daughter the surgery she desperately needs.

“You’d like to think that when issues like this are raised it makes some kind of change happen, but when I think about the amount of times I’ve read stories like this and still we don’t have enough beds to give children the treatment and help that they need. It’s just very sad. On this occasion, as individuals we’ve been able to get what Bella needs. But there are so many parents who won’t.”

Amanda praised staff at Ward six in Altnagelvin who have been monitoring her daughter’s conditions in recent months.

Bella is expected to undergo her operation tomorrow.