Heart patient Lewis puts ‘hands up’ at surgery march

Julie Greenaway and son Lewis. INPT25-246.
Julie Greenaway and son Lewis. INPT25-246.

LOCAL people and public representatives are being urged to support tomorrow (Saturday’s) march against a proposed cut in children’s heart surgery at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Joining the Hands Up march, which was postponed in December due to the flag protests, will be Loughgall woman Julie Greenaway and her three children.

Julie’s eldest son Lewis (5) was born with only half a functioning heart and has required three life-saving operations.

Lewis is a patient at the Royal Victoria Hospital’s Clark Clinic at but continuance of heart operations at the clinic was thrown into doubt several months ago after a review said it would not be sustainable to carry out such procedures in the future.

The initial protest was scheduled to take place before the closing date of a public consultation in December.

The consultation received over 600 responses, the vast majority of which have indicated support for an all-island network of children’s heart surgery, which supports the views held by experts and clinicians in the UK and Ireland.

The Children’s Heartbeat Trust is leading the Hands Up campaign to save the local surgery, Its executive officer Sarah Quinlan said, “This march is one of our last opportunities for everyone to make their voice heard on the vital issue of safeguarding the provision of children’s heart surgery in Northern Ireland.”

The march leaves from the doors of the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children at 11am and will march into Belfast City Centre with a number of speakers outlining how and why an all-island service should be safeguarded and developed.

“The importance of protecting and enhancing our safe service that cares for sick children and babies with congenital heart problems is surely something all of us in Northern Ireland can rally behind, and I would urge people from Portadown, including public representatives to join us at this parade,” added Sarah.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in Northern Ireland with some 250 children born with the condition every year.