Families bid to protect life-saving hospital unit

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE -- Hucknall boy Michael Keeling in recovery after his first operation at Glenfield
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE -- Hucknall boy Michael Keeling in recovery after his first operation at Glenfield

‘HAVE a heart’ — that’s the battle cry from Hucknall parents fighting to protect a closure-threatened hospital unit that saved the lives of their children.

The specialist East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester has come to the rescue of countless youngsters with killer illnesses.

SAVE THE LIFESAVER -- Lydia Kram with daughter Natalia, who had vital open-heart surgery at just seven months old

SAVE THE LIFESAVER -- Lydia Kram with daughter Natalia, who had vital open-heart surgery at just seven months old

Through pioneering surgery, world-class aftercare, dedicated staff and the associated Heart Link charity, it has given families hope for the future. But now it is in the firing line.

For it could be axed under plans to reduce the number of children’s heart-surgery units in the UK from 11 to six or seven.

Glenfield features in just one of four options put forward by NHS bosses in a consultation.

Now Hucknall families, who owe so much to the unit, have spoken out about the idea and want patients and their families to show their support.

Among those taking part in the campaign are the Keeling family, of Suffolk Avenue.

Michael Keeling (16) has been in and out of hospital since he was a baby because of the condition tetralogy of fallots, which left him with a faulty pulmonary valve.

Two years ago, he underwent groundbreaking keyhole surgery at Glenfield — an operation watched by 120 invited doctors from around the world.

This week, mum Alison (49) said: “If the unit closed, we wouldn’t know what to do. It feels like part of the family.

“They saved Michael’s life and he is doing well. But they save lives every day. I cannot praise the hospital enough and I cannot put into words what it means for families.”

Michael’s dad, Jeremy (46), who is known as Jez, said: “The reputation has been built up over a number of years. It has unbelievable expertise and some of the best surgeons. That cannot be reproduced.

“It is always in the headlines. It is world-renowned.”

Should Glenfield close, local families would have to travel to Birmingham or Leeds.

The campaign to save the unit is called ‘Hold on to our Hearts’ and Heart Link has sent 1,700 questionnaires to members. There is also a public meeting being held at the Walker’s Stadium in Leicester on Thursday June 16.

Among those hoping to be there is Hucknall mum Lydia Kram, of Ogle Street. Her daughter, Natalia (seven) underwent lifesaving open-heart surgery at Glenfield at just seven months old.

“It would be a devastating travesty if it closed,” said Lydia (44). “I cannot understand the idea. I know I am biased, but it is the best. If it wasn’t for the unit, Natalia wouldn’t be here today.

“Everyone should get involved and save the hospital — for the good of children in the future.”

Also backing the fight is Gaynor Ainsworth, of Watnall Road, whose son, Ralph (24), has had two heart operations — the last six years ago to repair a narrowing artery.

“Glenfield saved my son,” said Gaynor. “It must be protected. The pioneering things they do are incredible.

“I would urge people to get involved in the fight.”

To support Glenfield, log on at www.specialisedservices.nhs.uk or click on the heart on the Leicester Hospitals site at www.uhl-tr.nhs.uk.