‘When will I get surgery to fix my feet’ young girl keeps asking
Ava Cahill (11) with her mother Suzanne is calling on the minister to fast track surgery

‘When will I get surgery to fix my feet’ young girl keeps asking

AN 11-YEAR-OLD girl from Tallaght with spina bifida is one of 82 children in Ireland who have been “forgotten about” as they face long waiting lists for corrective surgery.

Parents of the 82 children in Ireland are now calling on the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly pleading for immediate action to fast-track appointments for their children waiting on scoliosis and orthopaedic surgery.

The “Paediatric Advocacy Group for children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus” wrote a letter to Stephen Donnelly last November, with some stating that their children are losing the ability to walk while on the waiting lists.

Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. It’s a type of neural tube defect. Ireland has one of the highest rates of neural tube defects in the world.

In an address to the Oireachtas health committee in November last year on children’s spinal health, Dr Conor Green, an orthopaedic surgeon at Temple Street Hospital and the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh Kids, said that the children’s abilities “are destroyed physically and psychologically by inadequate access to care”.

“These are children with spina bifida. Amazing, mature, intelligent children. While waiting for surgery, these kids have gone from walking independently to wheelchairs, from full-time school to home school and from wearing shoes to open sores from their deformities with no date for surgery,” said Dr Green.

One of these parents who are calling for action is Suzanne Cahill from Old Bawn, who’s 11-year-old daughter Ava has been on a waiting list since June 2020. Ava has Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus and since birth has had no feeling in both of her legs from the knee down – resulting in Ava being totally dependent on a wheelchair for independence.

Ava is now waiting on corrective surgery known as Grice procedure, which will help to correct her feet which are turned in as a result of spina bifida.

“Her feet are getting worse every day and it is harder to put her splint on, which is used to keep her feet in a normal position,” Suzanne told The Echo.

“Her feet are actually disformed now and she is quite conscious of it now when we go to play areas – she knows that her feet don’t look right. Ava is at the age where she is conscious and she knows her feet aren’t normal, it is not nice for her to be out and to have other kids looking at her.

“She askes me all of the time when is she going to get surgery to fix her feet and I can’t give her the answer and its heart-breaking as her parent.”

At a recent council meeting, councillor Madeleine Johansson called on the Chief Executive to write to the Minister of Health to fast track the surgery appointments, and that a provision of services is made to disabled children within elective hospital settings as well as acute hospital settings to “avoid a repeat of this situation” in the future.

“All of us parents are just trying to get our voices heard,” explained Suzanne. “Every day we have emails going to Stephen Donnelly and we just get the generic answer back every time.

“How it affects her every day is the big thing and daily tasks are just becoming a nightmare and it is going to have a huge mental affect on her if it hasn’t already.”

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