Waiting list crisis: 'I hated seeing my little boy suffering, so I went private'
Deborah McAleese and her son James: It wasn't until my son was born that I realised just how desperate NHS waiting lists had become.
From his first birthday in May 2014 James was plagued with ear infections. Every time he picked up a little sniffle it went straight into his ears. It got to the stage that he was on antibiotics on a monthly basis.
He was hospitalised twice after suffering febrile convulsions connected to his ear infections.
One of his convulsions lasted almost 30 minutes.
It was the most terrifying time of my life, watching my tiny little boy lying helpless, with an oxygen mask covering his face while a team of amazing doctors and nurses worked on him at night-time in Lagan Valley A&E. That facility has since gone part-time.
Around December 2014 my GP agreed that James should be referred to an ENT specialist to see if ear vents, or grommets, could be inserted to help prevent further ear infections.
I was advised he could be waiting around eight months for an appointment. James was now suffering about once a month with ear infections, leading to high fevers and risk of more seizures.
I hated seeing my little boy in so much discomfort and was also concerned about potential long-term hearing problems.
I decided it was time to go private and bump the NHS waiting list. Luckily I had health insurance to help cover the cost. James was seen by an ENT consultant within two days and a hearing test was carried out the following week. Within a month he had ear vents inserted and hasn't had an ear infection since. Last week I received a letter from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust advising me they were now in a position to offer my child an appointment - almost a year after he was first referred.