Belfast Telegraph

Young dancer Megan Fleming faces agonising 12-month wait for back op

By Lisa Smyth

A 14-year-old schoolgirl has been told she will wait more than a year in agony for an operation on her twisted spine because of the ongoing political crisis.

Megan Fleming, a talented dancer who relies on painkillers to get through the day, was left devastated after she was told the waiting time for urgent operations, such as the one she needs, currently stands at 12 months.

Her tearful mum, Karen, told the Belfast Telegraph she asked the surgeon to refer her daughter to a hospital in England for the gruelling eight-hour operation.

However, during a consultation with Megan and Karen on Wednesday, he told her this is impossible due to the current impasse at Stormont.

"It's just devastating watching your child crying in pain and knowing there is nothing you can do to help them but he said his hands are tied," said 38-year-old Karen.

"We've been told Megan needs a full fusion operation because the curve in her spine is so severe but, even though she is an urgent case, it will be 12 months before it will be done.

"The doctor said the waiting lists are so high because there is no government here and he can't refer children to other hospitals because of what is happening as well.

"I know there are hundreds of thousands of people affected by the waiting lists in the health service at the moment and for these delays to be happening because the politicians are fighting over stupid things is disgusting.

"I don't understand why they can't respect other people's views and put not only children first, but also the vulnerable people and elderly people who are also waiting for treatments."

The NHS is slipping deeper into crisis as the lack of an Assembly means there is no health minister to make crucial decisions about service priorities.

In addition, the health trusts have been tasked with slashing millions of pounds from their budgets in the absence of a health minister. According to the recent statistics, more than 64,000 peopl e had been waiting longer than a year to see a consultant at the end of June.

As one of the thousands of people caught up in the waiting time scandal, Karen, from Carrickfergus, has been forced to launch a fundraising page to gather the £50,000 required to pay for her daughter's operation to be done at a private clinic.

"The curve in Megan's spine was 70 degrees and we were told during the appointment on Wednesday that it is now 100 degrees, so what's it going to be like in another year," she continued.

"This delay could have a devastating effect on my daughter, not just physically but emotionally as well.

"Dance is all that Megan has and it is becoming increasingly difficult for her.

"She has to stop regularly because she is in so much pain and she isn't able to keep going as long because her lungs are being compressed and she gets out of breath very easily. It's so hard to watch, she needs this surgery to be able to move on with her life."

Karen has already been forced to pay for her daughter to be seen privately after being told of lengthy waiting times for appointments when Megan was first diagnosed with scoliosis.

She was dealt a further blow when she enquired about the date of a follow-up NHS appointment and was told Megan would wait a year for a review consultation.

"I told them how bad she was and that there was no way she would be able to wait another year and they agreed to put her on the cancellation list, which is the only reason Megan was seen on Wednesday," said Karen.

Alliance health spokeswoman Paula Bradshaw said she was horrified to learn of Megan's situation and said she was planning to raise the matter with health officials.

It comes just weeks after a mum from Co Tyrone said she is considering moving her family to the Republic of Ireland so her daughter can receive a cystic fibrosis (CF) wonder drug.

As the political stalemate at Stormont continues, there is no health minister to consider making Orkambi - a treatment proven to radically improve the lives of people with CF - available here.

To donate to Karen's campaign, visit www.gofundme.com/4hxh6mg

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