Reprieve for heart unit
THE Exeter mother who has led a campaign to save a children's heart unit from closure has expressed renewed hope after an independent review was ordered by the government.
Trudy Nickels has helped collect more than 50,000 signatures opposing the plan to shut the unit at the Royal Brompton Hospital where her son Freddie's life was saved.
Despite the public outcry, the protests looked to be in vain after it was named as one of three, alongside Leeds and Leicester, earmarked for closure as part of a nationwide review.
Managers at the Royal Brompton launched a legal challenge to keep the unit open, and had claimed closing it could put the entire hospital, including its cystic fibrosis unit, at risk.
And Ms Nickels, who heads up the Brompton fountain charity, said she had "genuine hope" of a reprieve after new health secretary Jeremy Hunt asked a panel to look again at the decision.
She credits the unit with giving life to her son Freddie, now five.
She was initially told to abort her baby when she was just 24 weeks pregnant, after being shown a scan which revealed just half of his heart was working properly, and that the other half was depressed and could not pump properly.
Then, at a visit to the Royal Brompton, a consultant explained her son's condition and what the specialist heart and lung unit might be able to do for him, so she went ahead with the birth.
In his short life Freddie has already undergone four open heart surgeries.
She said: "We are delighted they have asked for an independent review. Hopefully they will reassess and realise they made the wrong decision.
"We have still been fighting it anyway, and been running a new petition with new wristbands.
"Lots of people are still involved and this is the news we all hoped for. It has made us a lot more hopeful for the future.
"It is really exciting and I hope they can look at it with fresh eyes. I hope they take everything into account and realise closing Brompton is not the right decision."
Rachel Goswell, 41, of Beacon Heath, said that without the heart unit at the Royal Brompton her son Jessie would not be here at all.
He was born with heart disease, and with two holes in his heart.
"He would have died without that unit," she said. "He would not have made it past his first birthday. We are forever indebted to them and it makes you very passionate about the work they do."
She has been actively involved in the campaign to keep the unit open and said on hearing the news of the independent review: "I am very happy about this and it gives me and thousands of other families hope for the Brompton's future.
"I just hope the Brompton will be granted a permanent reprieve and many families can sleep easier at night in the knowledge the hospital they love and trust will be able to carry on their amazing work."