HORRIFIED mum Bobbie-Jay Johnson has urged a rethink on plans to axe the hospital unit that saved her newborn son.
The 22-year-old, pictured, of Stainland Road, Barkisland, fears her baby boy Caleb, now 12 weeks old, would have died if the children’s heart surgery centre at Leeds General Infirmary was shut.
The future of the unit – the only one in Yorkshire – has been thrown into doubt by an NHS review that plans to cut the number of specialist centres across the UK from 11 to six or seven.
It means sick children across the region would have to travel to Newcastle or Birmingham hospitals instead.
Caleb was born at Calderdale Royal Hospital with a rare condition called transposition of the great arteries.
It only affects only one in 30,000 babies and meant the arteries into his heart were the wrong way round.
Deoxygenated blood was being pumped around his body.
He was rushed to Leeds Infirmary within hours of being born on November 30 – at the time heavy snow blanketed the region.
Caleb had an 11-hour operation, opening up his heart and switching the arteries around.
Miss Johnson, who also has Elijah, one, with fiance Justin Crapper, said: “He was going grey by that point. He wouldn’t have survived if they hadn’t have operated.
“But it was amazing. He was pink again. He was still swollen but looking much healthier. He opened his eyes and come around.”
Caleb was discharged after 12 days but now faces futher operations to correct a suspected leaky heart valve.
She said: “When I saw on the news that the unit could be shut, I felt sick.
“We were told the critical stage was him going from Halifax to Leeds, because there’s not much you can do in an ambulance, with no surgeons. He was quite grey then too.
“We definitely wouldn’t have got to Newcastle or Birmingham. We struggled to get to Leeds. I know it’s not always going to be snowing but he desperately needed to be seen.”
Her family and friends have all signed the petitions to keep the unit open and have lobbied their MP.
She criticised the decision-makers and said: “If it was their child and they had to travel how ever many more miles to get the operation to save them, how would they feel?
“If it’s about money, there’s no way they should be able to put a price on it.
“There doesn’t seem a reason to close it. I just feel sick about it. You’re talking about babies’ lives. We could have lost him. Our lives could be completely different.”
Caleb’s parents are to marry in June and have asked guests for donations to the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, which has launched a campaign against the plans.
Charity director Sharon Cheng said the Leeds unit served more than 5.5million people and branded the proposed closure “unthinkable”.
She added: “We hope parents, grandparents and anyone else who cares about ensuring the best possible healthcare for our children will make their feelings known.”
Find out how to object to the plans at www.chsf.org.uk and to sign a petition visit http://www.thepetitionsite.com/6/help-to-save-ward-10-childrens-cardiac-lgi/