Belfast Telegraph

I’ve a time bomb in my head, says man whose brain op ‘stalled by patient recall’

Trust denies that delay is due to Dr Watt scandal

By Victoria Leonard

A Co Antrim father-of-three says he is living with a "time bomb" in his head after a life-saving brain operation was delayed.

Martin Norris (49), who suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage on February 15 last year, claims he was told by his consultant at the Royal Victoria Hospital that vital surgery on his brain ventricles had been postponed due to the recall of patients of neurologist Dr Michael Watt.

Mr Norris said the procedure was also delayed due to his consultant going on holiday, a failure to immediately place him on the waiting list, and the repeated cancellation of angiograms.

But the Belfast Trust has insisted that "no patient treatment has been compromised as a result of the neurology patient recall" and that "nursing and medical staff are not being redeployed to assist in the neurology recall clinics".

It added that it was "anticipated that Mr Norris will have his procedure within the next eight weeks".

The Carrickfergus man, who is still working 10-hour shifts as a flight supervisor at Belfast International Airport to provide for his family, said he has put his life on hold due to the mentally draining wait.

"Despite having an urgent diagnosis, I haven't been treated as an urgent case," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Every night I worry that I'm not going to wake up in the morning.

"I collapsed with the original subarachnoid haemorrhage in February 2017, after which I had a life-saving operation at the Royal to stop the bleeding.

"As a follow-up, I was due to go for an angiogram this March, but it was cancelled twice and I finally got it in April. On June 14, a consultant at the Royal told me I would need more surgery as the original aneurysm has filled up again. It's still bleeding and they're concerned it will pop again.

"The aneurysm blew the join on both ventricles, so they want to put in two stents to open it up, more coiling in the aneurysm and mesh across the neck of the aneurysm.

"I was told that day that I would be waiting up to eight weeks for an urgent operation.

"He said if I didn't get it sorted I'd be dead within five years."

However, Mr Norris said his treatment has been plagued by delays.

"My consultant told me that a lot of the waiting is because of Dr Watt and the fact that they don't have any specialist doctors or nurses free as they are all dealing with the patient recall," he said.

"Also, the operation is complex and requires two surgeons, but my consultant is going on holiday for three weeks at the end of this week. In addition, I've learned that there was a two-week delay in putting me on the waiting list for an operation. I wasn't put on it until July 2.

"At this rate I think I could be waiting until September - that's 12 weeks, maybe longer.

"I have repeatedly contacted the hospital but they won't tell me when I'm scheduled in for.

"I would say the Belfast Trust has treated me very poorly."

Mr Norris said that while he needs the operation to save his life, it also carries serious risks.

"I have been told there are risks of having a stroke due to the procedure, and it could also be fatal, but if I don't have it I will die," he said.

And he accused the trust of "dragging its heels".

"I'm walking around with a time bomb in my head," he said."The Belfast Trust shouldn't have people waiting for so long if it's an urgent case.

"I fear there could be a lot of people out there in the same boat waiting and my heart goes out to them. I know how they feel."

He added: "I would suffer headaches and I also get very fatigued. Sometimes when I go to bed at night and have a headache I don't want to wake up.

"It's depressing and my family are worried. My wife, mum and sons are up to high doh.

"They see a change in me every day. I'm turning 50 next month and my life is on hold.

"I can't do anything or go anywhere. I'm totally stressed out."

The Belfast Trust said: "This procedure is complex which requires the specialist skills of a neuroradiologist.

"The consultant interventional neuroradiologist met with Mr Norris to discuss his ongoing care and management.

"It is anticipated that Mr Norris will have his procedure within the next eight weeks.

"Nursing and medical staff are not being redeployed to assist in the neurology recall clinics.

"I can confirm that no patient treatment has been compromised as a result of the neurology patient recall.

"The neuroradiology department is not affected by the neurology recall."

When asked why Mr Norris's angiogram was cancelled twice, and why was he not put on the waiting list for his operation until July 2, the trust added: "Emergency cases take priority over elective procedures.

"It is regrettable that Mr Norris's procedure was cancelled on two occasions. We have apologised to Mr Norris."

Belfast Telegraph

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