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Long NHS waits: My child flew to Turkey for op

Long NHS waits: My child flew to Turkey for op
From BBC - April 6, 2018

"I was really sore. It was really painful. And I felt really drowsy and sick, and just wanted to go back to bed," says Megan, watching a video of her first steps after major spinal surgery.

Wearing pyjamas and fluffy slippers, she treads carefully, held up on either side by a Turkish nurse.

Megan flew to Istanbul for private surgery late last year, having been told she faced long delays for an operation to fix the deformation of her spine, which was causing her problems breathing.

When the healthcare trust in Belfast told her parents it would be at least a year before she could have the procedure, they felt they had no choice but to fundraise for treatment.

Through the generosity of strangers, the money was raised - but surgery to insert four metal rods into her spine was painful and expensive, costing about 30,000.

Just a few days after treatment, 14-year-old Megan had to board a plane home to Northern Ireland.

"But I was so happy, because I just wanted it over and done with, and to get back on the road to recovery," she says.

For her mother, Karen Fleming, though, the upset and uncertainty still plays on her mind. And she is angry on behalf of dozens of other children still waiting for similar treatment.

"It's a shambles. It's a mess," she says.

"It's no fault of the surgeons. It's no fault of the nurses. But it's awful. It's just seeing your child in pain every day, knowing that you ca not help them. And the only way for a lot of families is to fundraise, or actually to remortgage your house."

In Northern Ireland, targets say most patients should be seen within nine weeks and none should wait over 15 weeks.

Curvature of the spine

Just a few miles away from Megan's home in Carrickfergus, we visit 16-year-old Sophie Tanner in Belfast.

She waited 20 months for the same operation, to correct curvature of the spine, before it was cancelled the day before surgery.

Her parents were delighted when Sophie was then offered the procedure in Stanmore hospital, in Middlesex.

It went well but took 14 hours instead of the eight it was supposed to.

Surgeon: 'We have no choice'

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