A Skipton baby has received the gift of life after surgeons performed a vital heart operation on his first birthday.
George Hall, who turned a year old on Friday, underwent ten hours of open heart surgery just a few days after his transfer to the children’s heart unit at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
George has had problems with his heart since birth, and cardiologists at Newcastle diagnosed ventricular inversion.
George’s grandmother Nicola Garbutt, of Skipton, said: “We have lived a full year thinking that we’ve got a terminally ill child.
“But we’ve gone from a child who was going to die to one who is going to live a long life. The best birthday present we could have asked for is that George has got his life back.”
But while George’s family praised the team there for carrying out the procedure, they were critical of the care he received in the children’s heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary.
Nicola added: “I’m afraid that Leeds misdiagnosed him. I liaised directly with Newcastle to get him up there. We chose Newcastle because I questioned the care at Leeds.”
However, a spokesman from the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust denied the misdiagnosis claims.
George’s mum Hollie Pearson, 19, said: “Newcastle was the best place for him to be. The man who did the operation said it was a rare condition and that he had not performed that kind of surgery in 20 years.
“His heart was in such a bad state and he was so poorly that they rushed him in for an operation that morning.”
Hollie said the first year of George’s life had been difficult for the family, which also includes his dad, Jake Hall, and his three-year-old brother, Harvey.
She added: “It’s been hard and being at the hospital has been a normal part of life for us,” she said. “Harvey has been amazing through it all.
“He loves George to bits and is so happy that his little brother will be able to play with him.”
However, Nicola also felt that George’s care got caught up in the “campaigns and politics” of a national review that could result in the closure of three children’s heart units across the country, one of which could be Leeds.
“At the end of the day, complex cases need to be referred,” she said. “Campaigns and politics should be kept out of it. If it means passing a child to a different unit, then so be it.”
A Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust spokesman said: “We don’t think that the treatment in Newcastle is any different than the treatment we have here. We were ready to do an operation.
“From our point of view, we stand by the actions of the cardiologist and the treatment recommended.
“Making a diagnosis is an ongoing process. A diagnosis could evolve after doing a test that could see a change in condition.”
He added: “We do acknowledge there is this national issue regarding the future of children’s heart surgeries in England, but our surgeons have always made referrals and there has been no change in the number of referrals while this has been going on.”
Nicola said the family was grateful to Leeds for saving George’s life when surgeons carried out initial heart surgery when he was only six weeks old. The family was also grateful for the care that George received at Airedale Hospital, where he spent three weeks prior to his transfer to Newcastle.