'Children will die if heart service goes'
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Molly Quigley cuddles up to her mum Lisa in her home.
Molly would not have survived trip
FOR Enniskillen mum, Lisa Quigley, there is no doubt in her mind: if her daughter Molly had been sent to Birmingham for heart treatment when she collapsed at just five-days-old, she would not be here today.
"That's the reality for me and I don't say that lightly," she tells the Impartial Reporter, "And that is the reality that any of the doctors in the Clark Clinic would recognise too. Because Molly's condition was undiagnosed, time was of the essence to save her life, and time is something you just wouldn't have if you had to decide to transfer your child to Birmingham."
As a result of her own family's experience too, Lisa believes too, that is the children's heart services are removed from Belfast, other children will lose their lives.
"Molly was so ill by the time she got to the hospital, she wouldn't have survived the journey to Birmingham," she explains, "Once they had stabilised her in A&E, doctors were concerned that she wouldn't even survive the transfer from A&E on the bottom floor to Paediatric Intensive Care Unit on the top floor."
Now three-and-a-half years old, Molly began nursery this month and, according to her mum, hasn't a care in the world.
But it's a far cry from the situation her family was faced with in the first few days of her life.
"At that stage we lived in Lisburn, so when she collapsed, we took her straight to the Royal," explains Lisa, "They had no idea what was wrong with her. It was only that consultants from the Clark Clinic (in children's heart services) were there that they realised what was wrong.
It was a race against time for little Molly. She was suffering from an interruption of the aortic arch - a very rare heart defect where the aorta is not completely developed.
She was placed on life support.
And when her organs began to shut down she was too ill to undergo any operation.
It was then a waiting game for her and her family.
Four weeks later, when she was strong enough, she underwent a nine-hour procedure to work on the aortic arch and fix a hole in her heart.
She was home a week later.
"She has never looked back since," confirms Lisa, "She is just amazing. You would never know Molly was a heart baby. She may have to have heart surgery again as she grows older though, if her blood flow becomes more restricted, but that will be monitored through her six month check-ups at Clark Clinic."
Lisa believes the removal of heart services in Belfast would have a huge impact on her family.
"We have two other children - what would happen to them if we had to go over to Birmingham with Molly? It would have a huge impact on us now but it would have had an even bigger impact then.
"We had a wee baby who was fine, healthy and normal one minute and then in the space of a few hours our lives came crashing down around us - we had no warning sign. I literally woke up that morning, took my eldest son to school within a few hours she had collapsed. For six weeks we vanished from our sons' lives because we were up in Belfast with Molly - it all just happened in a heartbeat.
"It's not just about the inconvenience to families who would have to travel to Birmingam, although that's a huge part of it, but the reality is that children will die if these services are taken from us."
Lisa encourages everyone to show their support to the Children's Heartbeat Trust's ongoing campaign.
"I had two perfectly healthy children before Molly, so the idea that I would have a child with heart problems couldn't have been further from my mind.
"No one knows when this will come to their family. I never thought it would come to mine. But at least we had the service in Belfast, which was second to none."
This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 27 Sep 12