Health crisis: 'We have been waiting for two years... will it be two more now?'
Marian McCracken (54), from Cookstown, had been expecting to take her son, Gavin (27), to an appointment at the Royal Victoria Hospital for his heart condition on Tuesday.
He needed heart surgery as a baby and now requires an outpatient appointment every two years to monitor his condition.
The appointment was confirmed three months ago. On Friday, Ms McCracken received a text reminder that warned her missed appointments cost the NHS approximately £150.
After calling for an update, she was told her son would have to wait for another appointment.
"You can imagine how a parent waiting two years for her son to be seen, after all he has been through as a baby, would feel," she said. "I told him it was cancelled and he was not a bit happy. If he gets the scans and everything's okay with his heart, then he's okay.
"The nurse told me it would be rescheduled, but they can't say how long the wait will be.
"It's frustrating for us because we're in Cookstown, 50 miles away. You do get anxious and then they just cancel at the last minute.
"I know this is only an outpatient appointment and people have had surgeries cancelled, but he's still been waiting two years. Are we going to have to wait another two years now?"
Ms McCracken said the check-ups were vital for peace of mind.
"My motto in life is, 'You might look all right on the outside, but you don't know what's going on in the inside'," she added.
"Gavin's on a blood pressure tablet every day, even though he's only 27. I'm not saying it will happen, but if he was to take a heart attack or something, we won't know it's coming.
"Today, he should have been getting his echo and X-ray scans. I thought I had to say something.
"I've never missed an appointment yet. He's quite forgetful, so I always go with him."
Travelling from Cookstown to Belfast, she added, also made it harder to plan for appointments.
Ms McCracken, a cancer survivor, said she did not fault staff for striking and that it was a "disgrace" that the people in charge had not found a solution.
"I don't fault the nurses. I attended the Royal for an appointment last week.
"I've been treated well, but having my son's appointment cancelled makes me angry.
"It's those people higher up that need to do something to sort this out."