herald

Tuesday 25 July 2017

'Please stop my pain', tearful scoliosis girl's plea to Simon Harris

Sarah-Ann (12) and her mother Karen
Sarah-Ann (12) and her mother Karen

A 12-YEAR-OLD schoolgirl and her mother wept in front of Health Minister Simon Harris as they pleaded for a life-changing operation to "stop the pain".

Brave Sarah-Ann Clyne- Mitchell (12) and her mother Karen (40) were invited to meet Mr Harris yesterday after the Ballybrack youngster wrote to him begging for help.

But both mother and daughter left the Dail meeting feeling "completely distraught", said Karen.

"Sarah-Ann thought Simon Harris would give her direction and we didn't get that," she said.

"My daughter cried and told the minister she was sore and in pain. Then I started crying.

"I was so angry. I asked him, 'Are you not ashamed of this?'.

"I said, 'be a man and put in policies and procedures'. I told him the HSE is broken."

Sarah-Ann was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) in July and, after waiting to be seen as a public patient, Karen took her to see a private doctor at Santry Clinic in December.

She says they were told the 60 degree curvature could be fixed immediately and that her protruding rib cage could also be aligned back into place.

However, Karen and Sarah-Ann have just been told by a doctor at Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital in Finglas that they should wait up to nine months for a follow-up appointment, and no date was given for surgery.

Karen claims the public doctor told her it was advisable to monitor the child in case of a growth spurt, and she said they were dealt a devastating blow - that Sarah-Ann's rib cage could not be fixed.

"The doctor told us Sarah-Ann's rib cage can never be fixed, that the spine grew and turned the ribs," said Karen.

"The doctor said her rib cage will always be like that, so she'll be partially deformed forever.

"We left the hospital hysterical. We'd been told it could be fixed during a private appointment and that the operation could happen soon, only for us to be told the opposite as a public patient three months later.

"I believe it can be fixed because I know other children had more extreme curvatures and their rib cages were fixed.

"I don't want my daughter to grow up with a deformity.

Desperate

"We need help and we don't need strategies or plans set for years away - we need help today, for Sarah-Ann."

The schoolgirl had become so desperate for Mr Harris (inset) to help that she wrote last month to his office without her mother's knowledge.

She pleaded for him to step in and help get her get an operation.

Karen says that a great deal of children could be spared pain and long waiting lists if the State introduced scoliosis screening into schools to catch the health issue early.

"No child should be left like this. Promises of improving things tomorrow don't help today," Karen said.

The Children's Hospital Group said: "While we cannot comment on individual cases, we can advise that the Children's Hospital Group are working with the HSE to reduce the waiting list and times for scoliosis surgery (spinal fusions)."

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