Heartbreak for families as Glenfield child heart unit faces closure

Sally and Paul Twell of Gosberton Risegate with thier children L-R Ava 4, Edie 4 and Savannah 7.
Sally and Paul Twell of Gosberton Risegate with thier children L-R Ava 4, Edie 4 and Savannah 7.

FAMILIES with children who need life-saving heart surgery now face a 100-mile-plus trip for the operations after an NHS review left the nearest hospital unit to Boston facing the axe.

A mother whose four-year-old daughter’s life was saved by surgeons at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester says she feels sorry for anyone who finds themselves in her position.

It was one of three child heart specialist units selected for closure last week by a joint committee of primary care trusts, and it was a particularly sad announcement for the Twell family.

Mum Sally gave birth to twins Ava and Edie in 2008, but Edie was very poorly at birth with two chambers of her heart wrongly connected and she had to be rushed to the Glenfield.

Edie was turning blue because the deoxygenated blood was pumping around her body but surgeons operated to reopen a hole in her heart to keep the oxygen pumping and when she was stable performed an arterial switch.

She is now well and has a good prognosis for the future and celebrated her fourth birthday last Wednesday, the day news came of the Glenfield closure.

Sally said: “My heart just sank, especially being the date of July 4. That really brought it home.

“We are so rural here and the travel issue is massive – you can’t airlift everyone.

“We are a success story but it is because of the Glenfield. I feel sorry for families who have to go through it in the future.”

The Twells, of Gosberton Risegate, have a particular affinity to the Glenfield as it also treated dad and husband Paul in 1997 after a car crash near Gosberton.

NHS bosses say that they want to concentrate on fewer, larger units to boost care.

Without the Glenfield Boston families face a 107-mile trip to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, adding 45 miles and an extra hour onto the journey times.

Sally added: “I think distance is going to be an issue. It makes a difference not having to travel a vast distance. It made the aftercare so much easier.

“They were fantastic at the Glenfield. We wouldn’t have Edie with us if it wasn’t for them.”

A petition drawn up to fight the closure has already attracted more than 12,000 signatures.