A Dungiven dad has moved to put at ease parents of children in need of heart surgery after it was announced paediatric cardiac services will no longer be conducted in Belfast.
Conor and Toni Lavery’s daughter Bronagh had open heart surgery at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital at Crumlin in Dublin in February 2013.
Two years on, the soon to be four-year-old is “thriving”, says Conor, and attends nursery five days a week.
The couple always supported the retention of children’s heart surgery in Belfast, but say they cannot fault the care Bronagh received in Dublin.
“Never was there a two-week period that made such an impact on Bronagh’s life,” Conor told the ‘Journal’. “At the time, Dublin was the best option for us. It was a two-hour drive down the road and meant family could come to visit and it meant we got to stay in Ireland.
“It was doable, and I know we were incredibly lucky to have such great support from family and friends, and our employers.”
Conor says they have “no regrets” about going to Dublin.
“We didn’t choose to go to Dublin,” says Conor, “and I’m sure had we had of had a choice at the time of Belfast, Dublin or England, we would have chosen Belfast, but we have nothing but praise for the structures put in place by the two health boards and the amazing care that Bronagh received.”
Conor understands with the change parents will be unsure, but stresses: “Toni and I were very aware the surgeons and their teams and support staff were cognisant of what Bronagh’s surgery in Dublin meant, including us having to leave our other two daughters, Aoife and Sinead at home.
“You are dealing with professionals, whether they are in Belfast, Dublin or England.”
Conor added: “In Belfast we were used to a level of care for Bronagh, on a one-to-one basis and that didn’t feel any different when we travelled to Dublin.”
While scheduled surgical services will stop in Belfast, a cardiac ‘centre of excellence’ will be established in the city to provide diagnostics and after-care to northern-based children with congenital heart defects.
The all-Ireland clinic network approach was proposed by Jim Wells and his counterpart in the Republic of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, in the autumn.
The single all-Ireland surgical unit will be based in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital at Crumlin.