Draperstown toddler saved by decision to retain cardiac services

Toireasa Corrigan and Conor Bradley with little Gracie-Mae after her open heart surgery.
Toireasa Corrigan and Conor Bradley with little Gracie-Mae after her open heart surgery.

A DRAPERSTOWN mum whose daughter had open heart surgery when she was a baby, has welcomed the Health Minister’s announcement that vital services will continue in Belfast.

Toireasa Corrigan’s daughter Gracie-Mae, now 22-months-old, was diagnosed with pulmonary atresia when she was five-months-old and her life was saved by surgery at Birmingham Children’s Hospital where she was referred, such was the severity of her condition.

The Minister for Health announced that agreement has been reached between officials and Dublin surgeons to provide cover for congenital heart surgery to continue in Belfast, and that an all island assessment has been commissioned.

There were fears that Belfast could lose its cardiac unit, following a retirement. Thanks to the Belfast unit, Gracie-Mae was able to have heart catheterisation when she was five-months-old. If she had been forced to travel, the altitude would have closed her artery and she would not have survived.

Toireasa and partner Conor Bradley, also parents to Caoilte (10) and Caitlin (3), have welcomed the announcement. Toireasa, originally from Kildress, explained how the diagnosis came about: “I noticed Gracie-Mae was blue and she felt cold at times so we saw a GP who rang Antrim.”

At Antrim the parents were told Gracie-Mae had a serious heart condition so an ambulance rushed her to the Royal. Gracie-Mae went on to have a total heart repair in May, spending four weeks in Birmingham.

Her stomach and liver are on opposite sides and she has malrotation of the bowel.

“It’s difficult for the other children when you have to spend long periods of time away from them.

Sarah Quinlan,from The Children’s Heartbeat Trust, said the announcement shows that an all-Island cardiac surgery network is achievable.

The Children’s Heartbeat Trust has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Health.

Earlier this year, MLAs from every party signed a pledge to keep children’s heart surgery in Belfast. Since the campaign started over 120,000 people signed an online petition, and hundreds of people have taken to the streets, written letters to MLAs and held meetings in support of retaining surgery.

Sarah Quinlan, Executive Officer, said the strength and bravery of families of children with congenital heart disease throughout the campaign has been tremendous and without their campaigning the agreement would not have happened.