Parents delight at heart unit decision

Ryan and Rikki Kinsella
Ryan and Rikki Kinsella

THE parents of a Hartlepool youngster who had life-saving surgery at the Freeman Hospital have thanked health bosses who saved the threatened children’s heart unit.

Little fighter Ryan Kinsella was born with the valves in his heart the wrong way around.

The three-year-old has already had two life-saving operations at the Freeman Hospital children’s heart unit, in Newcastle, and is on the stand-by list to have his third any day now.

But the unit’s future was in doubt as part of a national l Turn to Page 5

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review aimed at streamlining children’s heart surgery nationally.

Yesterday, to the joy of families across Hartlepool and East Durham, it was confirmed the heart unit would remain open, with one in Leeds closing instead.

Ryan’s parents, Rikki Kinsella and partner Michelle Groom, 30, from the Rossmere area of Hartlepool, have praised the hospital staff for the care they provide.

Dad Rikki, 33, said: “We are over the moon with the decision.

“The staff at the Freeman Hospital do such a good job and the service they provide is outstanding.

“The hospital has played a huge part in our lives and the staff have been brilliant from day one, everyone from the cleaners to the surgeons.

“They provide a first-class service and every time we go we are treated well.

“Ryan feels comfortable there because he knows the staff, which in turn makes it easier for us.

“I am sure that is the case for other families in the area who have been there.

“We are delighted.”

Ryan was born with a double inlet of the left ventricle which means his heart does not pump blood around his body in the right way.

He quickly became breathless and could have died if it had not been treated.

In August 2010 the youngster underwent four hours of surgery to help correct the condition that affects just one in 30,000 babies.

The operation helped re-route the flow of blood carrying vital oxygen from his heart to his lungs.

It was Ryan’s second painstaking heart operation, following his first in 2009 at just six-weeks-old.

The third operation hopes to fully correct the problem and his parents are anxiously waiting for a confirmed date.

It is hoped the third operation - which would give him more blood flow and help prevent him getting out of breath so easily - will be his last.

But if that does not work then Ryan would need a transplant.

The little fighter takes medication every day and has regular three-monthly check-ups at the Freeman Hospital.

Rikki, a haulage driver, said: “Ryan has been doing well since his last operation and he is a lot more active.

“He is mischievous like any other child his age.”

The decision was announced by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT), which met to decide which of the 11 specialist units in England would stay open.

Due to the way the options were structured, children from Yorkshire will now be treated at the Freeman Hospital after it was decided to shut the heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

The Safe and Sustainable review followed the landmark inquiry into children’s heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1990 and 1995, where up to 35 children and babies died as a result of poor care.