NI operations: Readers reveal pain and anguish caused by the 'vicious circle' of cancelled ops
Karen Ireland's article in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, detailing how she wept when her operation was cancelled minutes before surgery, prompted an outpouring from readers who had also been let down by the health service. Explaining how she'd arranged time off work and organised childcare only to be told her op wasn't taking place, Karen pleaded with the leaders of the DUP and SF, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, to sort out the crisis. Here, some of those who reacted to her story tell Karen about their own experiences - and vent their anger and frustration at politicians for not tackling the crisis.
Frankie Hutchinson Braniff (25), a sales adviser and model, lives in Holywood with her partner Christopher and her son Oliver (almost one). She says:
I was badly burned as a child. My pyjamas went up in flames one Christmas morning when I was two years old and I suffered really bad third-degree burns on my left-hand side.
I didn't let it hold me back and I went into modelling, but every two years I have to have surgery with skin grafts. The last time I was due, I couldn't have it, as I was pregnant with Oliver.
When I got the letter to say my surgery was scheduled I was excited and looking forward to a bit more healing. I was due to go in on Wednesday when I got a call to say there was a crisis in the beds in the burns unit at the Royal and they couldn't operate.
I was devastated as I had taken time off work, my partner had organised time off work and I had got a nursery place for Oliver during the time I would be recuperating.
I still have to pay for that, which is very frustrating, the whole thing has been very upsetting. I have nothing but praise for the team in the burns unit, from the consultants and nurses through to the secretaries. They have all been fantastic with me. In fact, the secretary was really emotional when telling me my operation had been cancelled.
They are real people with real emotions just trying to do their job in very difficult circumstances. It is a vicious cycle which costs thousands of pounds because the theatre wasn't used that day. Eventually I will get my date, but that will take away from someone else due to be operated on and so the cycle just goes on.
It is not good enough.
Kathryn Wylie (52), who has several part-time jobs, lives in Markethill with her husband John and their two grown-up children Ryan (25) and Joanne (24). She says:
I have been waiting since January to have a hysterectomy and my operation has now been cancelled at Craigavon Area Hospital on three occasions. The latest one was on Thursday when I was phoned at 6am just as I was getting ready to go to the hospital. I was told there were too many sick people in the hospital and that only cancer operations were going ahead.
Before that, my operation was cancelled in both June and July when I was called at 4pm on the day before both were due to take place and told they had no bed for me and I could not be admitted.
I was packing my bag when the call came. I was devastated, and for this to have happened three times now makes me really angry both with the hospital and with the politicians.
I have three part-time jobs and I had cancelled my work as I thought I was going to be in hospital and then recuperating.
I am utterly disgusted and just want some answers from someone as to why this keeps happening to me.
Angela (52, who didn't want to reveal her full identity) lives in Finaghy and has two grown-up sons. She says:
I was due to have a hip replacement last year. The afternoon before the operation was due to take place I was getting ready to go into Musgrave Park Hospital when I got a call to say that they had no beds and the operation was off.
I was in floods of tears as I had got myself built up and ready for going in to have the operation.
I was fortunate in that I did have the operation done the next month, but it was still a big ordeal. My poor mum has been less fortunate. She is 83 and has been on the waiting list since May last year for two knee replacements. They were going to do one first, then the other.
Time has moved on and now both knees are as bad as each other. Every time she phones there is no news as to where she is on the waiting list.
Mum is in severe pain and can't even go to the shop across the road anymore. The last information she was given was that it would probably be the new year before she has her op. This just isn't good enough as she is in pain day and night.
Grainne O'Sullivan, from Holywood, explains how faulty air conditioning led to her dad James Cushnahan (74), from Dunmurry, having his op cancelled. She says:
Dad had issues with his knees so I took him to see a private doctor at the Ulster Independent Clinic. He was told he needed a full knee replacement and he could either pay to have it done or go on the waiting list.
He decided to go on the waiting list and almost a year later he got a date in May of this year. I organised my children and my diary so I could go to Craigavon Area Hospital with him. We were at the hospital at 7.30am and no one saw us until 8am. He was kept waiting in the corridor until he got a bed at 11.30am. The consultant and anaesthetist both saw him in the corridor.
Finally, at 2.30pm, they came and told him it was time to go to surgery and I said goodbye to him and left to go and get some lunch. At 3pm I had a call from a withheld number. It was my dad to say that his operation had been cancelled as the air conditioning had broken down in the theatre and all surgery was being cancelled. I couldn't believe it, after waiting so long and being in the hospital all day.
When the consultant came around he explained to my dad that without air conditioning there was more risk of infection.
He was told he would go to the top of the list and once more we began the round of phone calls to see where he was on the list. He was very sick and weak for a couple of days as he had been given pre-op medication.
Eventually, after some toing and froing, he got a date for July 19. I asked that to avoid any stress he be brought in the night before and go first on the list.
The hospital were great at accommodating this, and this time he had his operation stress-free. He was in hospital for a couple of days and then home, and it was a great success.