Straight Ahead, launched in 2011, aiming to help ‘time-critical’ cases in children who were in danger of significant delay and deterioration while on waiting lists for their orthopaedic surgery.
Straight Ahead’s first patient was teenager Jason Slevin. The nation watched Jason and his Mum on a Primetime special about waiting lists. Both talked about the pain and difficulty caused by Jason’s scoliosis, and consultant orthopaedic surgeon Pat Kiely commented on how such a severe problem was unnecessary, and even economically futile. He argued the need for political will and funding to provide more surgeons, theatre time and after care for child orthopaedic cases.
Struck by Jason’s now severe condition, an anonymous and very generous donor provided Straight Ahead with the fees to help pay for Jason’s surgery, a voluntary surgical team was activated for a series of weekend surgeries , and Jason made a good recovery in Blackrock Clinic.
Further Straight Ahead procedures have been carried out, mainly in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, But also in other centres. Straight Ahead performed its first official procedure in Crumlin November 2011 on 12 year-old Bronwyn Kavanagh–Smith who had a major curve, scoliosis, in her spine, having deformed to 96 degrees. She had been on the surgical waiting list for 6 months, but was deteriorating rapidly because of her speed of growth. Further delay could have led to multiple surgeries with significantly higher risk, as she continued to grow and deteriorate.
Following surgery, Bronwyn’s spine was very much straighter and better aligned and she was discharged from hospital within five days, “more than 3 inches taller” she told her medical team. She’s now living a normal teenage life, the surgery a distant little chapter in her past.