Family back fight for heart unit that transformed their son’s life

LITTLE Harvey Quick is the picture of health as he sits playing with his toys at home in Hull.

But it is barely two months since the three-year-old underwent major surgery at Leeds Children’s Hospital to repair a hole in his heart and re-route veins from his lungs which were connected to the wrong side of his heart.

He spent a night in intensive care but just five days after the operation he returned to the family home in Hessle.

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Harvey has been left with a neat scar down the middle of his chest, which he is keen to show off, and will need regular check-ups.

His parents Becki, 31, and Shaun, 32, are hopeful he will need no more surgery but they are determined to help in the campaign to retain heart surgery in Leeds.

They have collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition and will tomorrow attend a public consultation meeting in Leeds over plans which could see services axed.

Mrs Quick said Harvey was diagnosed with a heart murmur as a baby.

His brother Lewis, now 12, also had the same problem which disappeared as he got older but Harvey’s did not clear up.

Doctors at Hull Royal Infirmary sent him for further tests by specialists in Leeds who discovered the two problems.

Harvey remained fit and well and was in no imminent danger but specialists told the family he would not live a full life without an operation.

His condition was monitored until surgeons decided to operate in February. He underwent six hours of open heart surgery where surgeons discovered the hole was larger than expected and the vein problems were more complicated but he was still able to return home a few days later.

Mrs Quick said: “The operation was a complete success. We’re lucky in that he doesn’t need any medication, he will have check-ups but we hope for Harvey that he shouldn’t need any future surgery – although you never know.”

She said because she and her husband, who are both self-employed, knew in advance Harvey would need surgery they could plan ahead but it was not the same for many other families.

“Luckily we have family close by – my parents live across the road from Lewis’s school,” she said.

“It was difficult for him being left behind and he knew how serious the operation was. He was really upset and worried. He knew it was a life-saving operation and it’s really difficult because you’re torn in two.”

Although they had to travel just over an hour to Leeds, it was still possible for Lewis to visit in the evenings – but they knew that if surgery was carried out further away family life would have been much more difficult because he could not have travelled.

Under existing proposals from the NHS review team examining the future of heart surgery, patients from Hull would be expected to travel to Newcastle a two-and-three-quarter-hour journey.

She said she could not imagine how difficult it would be to go to the North East, which would mean setting off before 6am for a 9am appointment which might only last 30 minutes, involving a round trip of nearly six hours.

There were also the additional travel costs and disruption to family life.

“It’s one thing coming to Leeds but if it’s further away then a lot of people would really struggle,” she said. “You just never know when something like this might affect you or your family.”

Sharon Cheng, of the Leeds-based charity the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, said a rally being held outside the consultation meeting at the Royal Armouries tomorrow at 5pm would demonstrate the strength of feeling about the plans

“We have received overwhelming support for the campaign so far, however this event is key in letting the national review panel know the people of Yorkshire will fight to keep their only children’s heart surgery unit,” she said.

The consultation over the future of heart services runs until July 1.

No decision will be made until later in the autumn by the review team from NHS Safe and Sustainable.

The final say is likely to rest with Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Further local meetings for families have been arranged by the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund at the Mecure Royal Hotel, Hull, on Saturday May 14 from 11am-2pm, the Brentwood Hotel, Rotherham, on May 21 from 11am-2pm, the St James Hotel, Grimsby, on May 28 from 11am-2pm and Wortley House Hotel, Scunthorpe, on June 3 from 5-8pm.