Leeds Save Our Surgery campaign: Boy’s heart unit battle EXCLUSIVE

Joseph Somers.
Joseph Somers.
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HE has gone through two major heart operations and a year of treatment for cancer.

Now a brave 12-year-old from Leeds is pleading for the city to keep its children’s heart surgery service.

Joseph Somers has battled a raft of medical problems including not only a serious heart condition but also a rare kidney cancer, which was unrelated. He is now distraught at the prospect of the Leeds General Infirmary unit closing.

His mum Kathryn said: “Joseph had tears in his eyes when I told him. He was really scared before his last operation and the thought of travelling again will just increase his feelings of being scared.

“For Joseph it’s really important to have his family around him to help his recovery. If we were having to travel to another city it wouldn’t be possible to have that support.”

The youngster, who lives near Temple Newsam, was diagnosed before birth with a major heart problem, complete Atrio Ventricular Septal Defect (AVSD). His mum was cared for at the LGI ward, which had then only just moved from the now-closed Killingbeck Hospital.

Joseph was allowed home after his birth but soon went into heart failure and aged nine weeks had surgery to correct the AVSD. That was a success but when he became ill aged two, he was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumour, a form of kidney cancer.

“It led to him having aggressive chemotherapy, radiotherapy and the removal of his left kidney,” Ms Somers, 45, said.

“He was so poorly. It was horrible for him after all he had been through with his heart. It did not seem fair at all.”

Joseph came through the treatment but as he got older, developed respiratory problems and was diagnosed with a leaking heart valve. Doctors had hoped it wouldn’t need repairing until his teens but he had to have the nine-hour surgery last August at the LGI.

He is now on blood-thinning medication for life and needs blood tests at least every other week. The youngster, who has suffered feeding problems all his life and still receives extra nutrients via a tube in his stomach at night, has also been left with curvature of the spine from the chemotherapy.

However his mum said he was a happy, sociable boy who even smiles when having his blood taken.

But Ms Somers and her family are very upset that the LGI ward may shut because of a national review as Joseph will need further heart surgery.

The mum-of-three, a research nurse at the LGI, said she knew about the problems of moving a distressed, sick child to different hospitals as Joseph was at one point being treated at St James’s, LGI and the former Cookridge Hospital.

She said Joseph is under the care of at least seven different specialist teams who all know his medical history.

She said it was crucial that Joseph’s sister Victoria, 22, and brother Matthew, 10, as well as his grandparents, could support him when he was ill.

“Health planning should be based on population,” Ms Somers said. “They need to look at the population and put the doctors where people are, not the other way around.”

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