A TEENAGE campaigner has thrown his weight behind the appeal to keep children’s heart surgery in Leeds.
Talented actor Jonathan Mason, 15, underwent open heart surgery as a 10-day-old baby when the unit, now at the LGI, was housed at Killingbeck Hospital.
Now, the youngster - who played Joe in the 2005 version of Lassie - is firmly backing a campaign to keep the heart unit open and has attended meetings and forums all over the county.
If the department does close, it means children may have to travel as far as Newcastle or Liverpool to receive treatment.
Jonathan, who is supporting the Save Our Surgery (SOS) campaign, said: “At one meeting in York, I was one of the only young people from Leeds there and I felt like people weren’t really listening to me. I even said it to one guy and he just laughed at me.
“It’s really important to me because of what I went through as a baby, but it’s not just about me, it’s about helping other families and future generations.”
His mum Clare, 41, added: “I couldn’t believe it when I heard about the proposals. I thought I must have mis-read it.
“We’ve done the questionnaire and it was full of questions like ‘do you want the best care for my kids’, ‘would you be prepared to travel for your kids’. I would go to the ends of the earth for my kids but it doesn’t mean I don’t think it would be more practical to have services close by.
“When Jonathan was in hospital, his grandparents and other relatives would go and see him every day, which just wouldn’t have happened if he had been in Newcastle or Liverpool. Children really need that support.”
Jonathan, who also starred in CBBC show The Revenge Files of Alistair Fury, was born with a congenital heart defect and underwent surgery in 1996. He still has annual hospital appointments to check on his condition.
He added: “I’m worried that if I have kids and they inherit my condition, they might have to go to Newcastle for treatment. It just doesn’t seem right somehow.”
As reported previously in the YEP, the unit may have to close because of a national review which is cutting the number of hospitals providing cardiac operations for youngsters.
The LGI ward only features in one out of four options for future set-ups for children’s heart surgery services. The consultation period ends on July 1.
Go to www.chsf.org.uk, call 0113 392 5907 or visit the charity’s Facebook group.