Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Junior doctors saved boy’s life

A WOMAN whose son’s life was saved by junior doctors is backing plans for next month’s

A WOMAN whose son’s life was saved by junior doctors is backing plans for next month’s strikes.

Sarah Morton, who is a GP, says the doctors are the mainstay of the NHS and deserve a better deal than the new contract being imposed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

She said: “The proposed contract is bad for patient safety. A tired, overworked doctor is an unsafe doctor, more likely to make mistakes.”

Dr Morton, who lives in Wallingford Road, Goring, and works at the Balmore Park Surgery in Caversham, says her son Robert is only alive because of the “amazing” care of his medical team.

Robert was just nine months old when he was rushed to hospital on Boxing Day 2011 suffering pneumococcal meningitis.

Doctors feared he wouldn’t survive and warned Dr Morton and her husband Paul Airey to prepare for the worst. However, the baby fought to live and was able to leave hospital with his parents two weeks later.

Dr Morton, who is currently on a six-month break from her work to look after Robert, now four, as he starts at Stoke Row School, and his sister Lucy, two, said: “He had been perfectly healthy before that. He’d never been ill and we thought he just had a cold or viral illness.

“It had been going on for a few days over Christmas and late on Boxing Day he got very ill very quickly. He went floppy, had a high temperature and his arm was twitching, which we found out was a seizure.”

The couple rushed Robert to the accident and emergency department at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, where a team of three junior doctors and nurses treated him.

Dr Morton said: “It quickly became apparent that he had meningitis and he stopped breathing and crashed. That’s quite serious and they were working on him very hard to save his life. Without their intervention he would have died.”

Robert was stabilised overnight and then moved to the intensive care unit on a ventilator.

He was later moved to a specialist paediatric intensive care unit at University Hospital Southampton but his condition worsened.

Dr Morton said: “Robert had pneumococcal meningitis, a destructive type of meningitis. He seemed to be improving and then deteriorated rapidly, which is what this disease does.

“We wanted him to be christened if he was going to die and they said we should do that, so the hospital chaplain did it in intensive care at the end of December. We were prepared for the worst and were told he would die.

“Being a doctor myself actually made it worse as I never imagined my own child could be seriously ill. It’s the kind of thing that happens to other people.”

Then Robert began to improve and was able to come out of intensive care on January 3, Mr Airey’s birthday.

Dr Morton said: “It was the best present ever. On New Year’s Day they said he was going to make it - those were the exact words.

“The night before we had been talking about what hospice he could go to, so we could have more time with him in a nice setting.

“We feel fortunate because it’s an amazing unit. They were absolutely brilliant. He hung on in there and after three attempts they managed to get him breathing on his own.

“They had said if it didn’t work on the third attempt they would have to do a tracheotomy, which would mean he would need a backpack of oxygen and wouldn’t be able to have a normal life.”

Doctors warned the couple that Robert would probably be severely brain damaged when he woke up but to their surprise he seemed to have few side effects.

Dr Morton said: “They called him their Christmas miracle. They have one a year who defies their expectations and this time it was Robert.

“Having been prepared for him to die I felt euphoric and grateful.

“Living in our house with our love we knew Robert would be just fine. I knew we could deal with it and he would have a great life. We just want him to be happy and he is a very happy little man.”

Robert has had physiotherapy and occupational therapy. He still has problems with movement in his right side as a result of a hemiplegia, where one side of the body is paralysed, but he is able to lead a normal life and play with his friends.

Dr Morton said: “We feel incredibly fortunate that he survived and we are lucky that it happened to him so young because his brain has found a way around it.

“He has virtually full use of his limbs now — he can run and play and he’s learning to write at school. The biggest leftover is that he gets much more tired than his peers.

“We’ve started talking to Robert about it but he doesn’t know much. He knows he had a poorly head and the doctors made him better but he was so young that he can’t remember much about it.”

Dr Morton said she and Mr Airey, who works in IT for Marks & Spencer, were grateful to the NHS and its staff.

“The level of care and expertise from doctors, nurses and all the other NHS staff was great,” she said.

“Robert was admitted on a bank holiday but one of the nurses came straight out of the office to help and they also called in a consultant from home at 4am.”

She welcomed Mr Hunt’s offer this week to hold talks with the British Medical Association, which balloted 37,000 junior doctors on industrial action.

They voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike with three days of action next month.

The proposed contract would give the doctors an 11 per cent pay rise but they say they would lose out on overtime pay, which forms up to 40 per cent of their salary.

Dr Morton said: “I’m 100 per cent behind the junior doctors. It goes deeply against the grain of any doctor to vote to strike because our primary concern is always for our patients.

“That’s what we do and why we do it and so to know that 98 per cent of a population of highly intelligent, qualified professionals voted for industrial action shows there’s something deeply wrong with the new contract.

“Junior doctors are anything up to a consultant or GP. They have done five years of medical school but also up to 12 years further work so they are very highly qualified.

“We are facing a crisis in certain specialisations. A&E has lost 30 per cent of its doctors overseas in the last five years, while 50 per cent of training posts are unfilled.

“If this contract, in its current form, is imposed on junior doctors we will see a mass exodus of UK-trained doctors who the taxpayer supported through university. There are usually 20 applicants a day to work abroad - in the three days after the contract was publicised there were 1,500.

“I don’t think the Government understands the strength of feeling at a grassroots level.

“Everyone has relied on the NHS to help them or a loved one at some point. The junior doctors are the workforce and it’s no exaggeration that if they hadn’t been there my son would have died.”

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