Children’s heart surgery centres

Six-year-old Megan McGarvey with her older sister Maya, eight.
Six-year-old Megan McGarvey with her older sister Maya, eight.

An Amble mum has expressed delight at the ‘fantastic’ news that the heart unit that saved her daughter has avoided the axe.

Last week, it was announced that the children’s heart unit at the Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle, is to remain open. Its closure would have meant a trip to Leeds for Northumberland residents.

And the news meant more than most to the McGarveys in Amble, as their daughter Megan’s life was saved there in a vital procedure to repair a large hole in her heart in March 2005.

The seven-year-old was born without a right lung and her heart is located on the right hand side of her chest, which complicates any surgery.

Until recently the family were regular visitors to the unit, following further operations and diagnoses of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), where the heart beats very rapidly, and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome – an unusual, and potentially dangerous if untreated, heart rhythm.

However a five-hour operation last July, a month after mum Rachel pleaded for support for the specialist unit in the Gazette, was successful and Megan is now cured of her arrhythmia and is off all medication.

“It’s absolutely brilliant,” said Rachel. “Although it’s gutting for the people of Leeds who have lost their unit.

“People say it’s about the Government and money but it’s not, it’s about keeping people safe and keeping the expertise in one place.

“I was really tearful when it came on the telly.”

Children’s heart surgery will now be performed at seven of the ten hospitals that previously offered the service, so care can be concentrated at fewer, larger sites to improve standards.

Rachel said: “It’s state-of-the-art at the Freeman.

“They care for the whole family, they are just fabulous, they really are.

“It’s just the best news for our family, we will never know if Megan will need those services again.”

North Northumberland MP Sir Alan Beith is another who welcomed the news.