Seven-year-old's ‘nightmare’ wait for medical treatment
A mother-of-three says her youngest son is on a waiting list for an ENT consultation but the earliest he can be seen is December, despite her GP and other medics claiming that her son needs his tonsils removed urgently.
Kasia Kotnica says seven-year-old Liam first began suffering last December, but his condition has deteriorated quickly to the point where he has developed sleep apnoea, and complains of having chest pain and headaches.
“Liam was an absolutely healthy child until December last, when he started having a constantly runny or blocked nose, nothing very serious to begin with. He was a few days in school, then a few days at home, another few days in school and back home again," begins the Polish native who has made Mullingar her home for the last 16 years.
“It got worse in January, and between January and March he had four antibiotics due to throat infections when he couldn’t swallow. He had temperatures, his nose was blocked constantly, even his voice changed because he felt like he had something in his throat," she explains, adding that Liam who attends Mullingar Educate Together, has missed 36 days of school so far this year because of his condition.
“He started breathing through his mouth, and not using his nose. We saw our GP numerous times, too many to count, and he told us that if his tonsils were infected they might get bigger but it shouldn’t persist after the antibiotics, which it did. So our GP referred us for surgery to get them removed because he felt it was dangerous. We were put on a waiting list to see the ENT."
Kasia says that it was then that the "nightmare" began, when young Liam couldn't breathe properly at night.
"He would stop breathing for a few seconds, and then he would try and catch his breath and gasp for air. He has been sleeping in with me for the last four months so I can watch him, I have to push him so that he can catch his breath - it's terrifying."
Kasia says her son is now constantly tired, with large dark circles under his eyes, and "he’s complaining of headaches and chest pain".
"When a seven-year-old child complains of headaches and chest pain, it’s not normal," she says. "He is getting worse, he’s not getting enough oxygen into his system, and if he has to wait a year, it could lead to bigger problems," she fears.
The mum says that she has looked into every option, including going private in order to get her son seen sooner, but has come up against a brick wall.
“I've looked everywhere, I've tried the the Beacon [hospital] but they only do nose, not the throat. We tried privately in Kildare but they say they only treat children over 14-years-old, and other consultants are not taking on any new patients.
"We were referred to Tullamore hospital because there’s no ENT in Mullingar, but we're on the waiting list so I thought if someone could just see him they would be able to see how serious it is.
"So we went to the emergency department in Tullamore but because we arrived in the afternoon, we were told there was no ENT available, that they are only available until midday. The administration nurse told us to wait if we wanted so that someone could see him anyway and maybe refer him as an emergency. So we did wait, and Liam was seen by a doctor who agreed that his tonsils were swollen and needed to be removed, but nothing happened."
Kasia returned with Liam a second time to Tullamore, on March 29, where they did manage to see an ENT.
"This time we went in the morning and Liam was seen by an ENT consultant, and he told me it wasn’t really urgent but that he would wait one or two weeks because he needed to discuss Liam’s problem and would find a date for surgery. But we have heard nothing since, only a letter to say that he would have an ordinary consultation on December 21 this year, that’s eight months from now, and who knows how long we will have to wait for surgery after that."
Kasia says she would bring her son abroad for surgery if she could, but it needs to be signed off here first, by the HSE: “I would go abroad in a heartbeat if I could because you will do anything to help your child, but we need the documentation to be signed off on here first.
“I am so worried and I feel like I can’t do anything, I have no options, nobody will give me any information. It’s just wait, wait, wait, but for what?
“Every time I attend Tullamore and they see Liam, they ask me why I go there, because they don’t have pediatrics there, but I tell them he is on the waiting list for Tullamore, and they have an ENT consultant. And if I go to Mullingar, they will send me to Tullamore to see the ENT."
Kasia believes she is not the only parent in this situation, and in a bid to get her son seen sooner, she has shared a video of his sleep apnoea and the difficulty he has breathing while he's asleep.Maybe some doctor out there can take a look and who might be able to help? If they could I would be so, so grateful."
The Westmeath Examiner contacted the HSE, but at the time of going to press, none had been received.
On Tuesday April 25, the spokesperson for the HSE said:
"The HSE cannot comment on individual cases as to do so would breach our ethical duty to maintain the individual’s right to privacy. We remain available to discuss any aspect of a patient’s care directly with them or their family members."